Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Between the Lines

How long is a life?

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 14 April 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1951
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

    Not long ago I was asked (being a doctor) to appear in a public discussion on the subject of longevity. My ignorance of the subject seemed to the organiser a novel—and indeed a not quite sufficient or respectable—reason for refusal.

    One of the proposed panellists was an eminent scientist who believed that we were on the verge of abolishing death; which abolition, were it ever to be brought about, would be grossly unfair to all those people who had died in the previous centuries.

    However, I suspected (without having an evidence base for my suspicion) that the scientist was talking nonsense. Of course, the natural span of human life has long been a matter of speculation. For example, …

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