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Is longevity a sustainable goal?

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 21 September 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:665
  1. Imre Loefler (, surgeon
  1. Nairobi, Kenya

    Survival is the measure of evolutionary success. Evolution is concerned with the species, not the individual. Therefore, in biological terms, longevity is not of primary importance, even though all living things are endowed with strategies aimed at postponing death.

    The pursuit of longevity can be regarded as a form of hedonism

    Humankind has striven throughout its history to extend the limits—that is why it invented technology. We have had the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and—in the past 50 years—the medical revolution, which has increased the human lifespan. Long life used to be seen as a gift, a matter of luck, or a result of good genes and a clement environment. As a rule, longevity presupposed good health.

    The medical revolution has broken the link between lifespan and health. Much of contemporary health care consists of chronic disease management, lifelong medication, props, prostheses, replacements—whether implants or transplants—and of continuous care of varying intensity. Until recently there were only two …

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