Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 34 (3):207-226 (2013)

Katrien Devolder
Oxford University
Guido Pennings
University of Ghent
Recent developments in biogerontology—the study of the biology of ageing—suggest that it may eventually be possible to intervene in the human ageing process. This, in turn, offers the prospect of significantly postponing the onset of age-related diseases. The biogerontological project, however, has met with strong resistance, especially by deontologists. They consider the act of intervening in the ageing process impermissible on the grounds that it would (most probably) bring about an extended maximum lifespan—a state of affairs that they deem intrinsically bad. In a bid to convince their deontological opponents of the permissibility of this act, proponents of biogerontology invoke an argument which is grounded in the doctrine of double effect. Surprisingly, their argument, which we refer to as the ‘double effect argument’, has gone unnoticed. This article exposes and critically evaluates this ‘double effect argument’. To this end, we first review a series of excerpts from the ethical debate on biogerontology in order to substantiate the presence of double effect reasoning. Next, we attempt to determine the role that the ‘double effect argument’ is meant to fulfil within this debate. Finally, we assess whether the act of intervening in ageing actually can be justified using double effect reasoning
Keywords Double effect principle  Geriatrics  Longevity  Biomedical enhancement
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DOI 10.1007/s11017-013-9257-1
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References found in this work BETA

Principles of Biomedical Ethics.Tom L. Beauchamp - 1979 - Oxford University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
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Slowed Ageing, Welfare, and Population Problems.Christopher Wareham - 2015 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 36 (5):321-340.

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