Recent articles on prolonging life have focused on caloric restriction and several 'anti-rejection' drugs. The underlying proposition as advocated by British geneticist Aubrey de Grey is that "death is a disease" and should be regarded as "treatable".
Granted, the medical profession has dedicated itself to the prevention, treatment and cure of disease states whose consequence is the prolongation of life and subsequently reducing the average age at death. Any walk through an old cemetery with particular attention to the age of death will quickly convince the dubious that much improvement has been made in this regard.
But on a deeper metaphysical level, the perception that death itself is the enemy is just plain wrong.
Life is miraculous because it defies the fundamental laws of thermodynamics. Organized states tend to 'run down'. Concentrations of energy tend to dissipate. It takes a tremendous amount of energy for any living thing to even exist. Life is based on the ability to exist in the face of the basic laws of entropy. It does so at a cost. In truth, life is the anomaly, not death.
Despite anyone's best efforts, biological process eventually exhaust themselves. The mechanisms which helped the first seed of life develop into a mature organism eventually fails and death ensues.
Life is like a play. It has a dramatic arc –a beginning, middle and end. This is not a tragedy. It just reflects the nature of reality.
Life has evolved because organisms have a limited time here. Make way for the new and different and hopefully improved model. Without death, we would not be here either.
And death is not always the enemy. When life is unbearable, when suffering predominates over contentment, when the fruits of life cannot be tasted, when dementia clouds the consciousness and obliterates who that person was—than death can be a blessing.
There is also a misunderstanding of the nature of reality among those who dream of prolongation of life at any cost. It ignores the nature of the soul–the immortal element which animates all living beings. Death reflects the body's demise–it was never to be anything more than the vehicle for our soul's journey during any particular lifetime.
So, medical research must continue to seek the end of suffering [as the Buddhists noted] and in doing so, in challenging diseases, will likely improve the quality and duration of life.
But is death itself a disease which can be conquered? Clearly, not.