Description: This discussion of the interplay of aging and biotechnology comes about from a conference in 2005 supported by the National Institute on Aging and Boston College.
Purpose: Its purpose it to consider the intersection of a society with increasing numbers of old people with rapid advances in molecular biology. It accomplishes this purpose brilliantly in a series of 19 essays.
Audience: The audience here is broad and unusual. Students and practitioners of philosophy, theology, medicine, life sciences, nursing, and psychology are the audience suggested by the editors, to which I would add social planners and policy makers, who would also glean much from this book. The authors are all experts in their fields.
Features: The essays are grouped into five sections. The first gives an overview of the concepts at hand. The second discusses immortality with essays on cloning, the transhumanist movement (humans existing in artificial bodies, approximately), stem cells and antiaging interventions. The third section discusses centenarians and the nature of persons living into the extremes of old age. The fourth section talks about genetic testing and particularly about genetic testing in Alzheimer's disease followed by a most witty chapter on the challenges of operationalizing genetic testing into the customary practice of medicine. The concluding fifth section discusses the ethical issues that derive from extending life.
Assessment: This is a brilliant and useful book that summarizes much information from different points of view into a unified whole. Molecular biology is very hot now, along with transplanting nuclei from one cell to another. How all this fits in with aging is indeed a fascinating subject. The crown jewel of this collection is Laurie Zoloth's essay "The Ethics of Aging: Question of Ends at the End of Life" which not only looks at what makes us think about ethical questions in certain ways, but in the process also gives us the intellectual history of medical ethics. So vibrant in its clarity, so audacious in its thinking, it adds much to the luster of this remarkable book, one that deserves a wide readership.