Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What can be more 'normal' and universal than aging? And yet, what can be more ripe a target for medical intervention? Aging will soon (if it is not already) be conceptualized as a 'medical condition', a 'disorder', a 'disease'. As more and more options become available for us to slow, delay, halt, or perhaps even reverse, the process of aging, aging as we currently understand it will become the outlier of 'normal' functioning. Eternal youth, that is how we see the normal state of health. The modern insistence on maintaining one's social and occupational functioning within the expected norms will see to it that anything outside these expected norms is pathologized and subjected to treatment.

Consider these matter-of-fact statements taken from the web: "Aging is a medical condition because an aged body does not function properly. A body that does not function properly has a disease. A disease is a medical condition." I'm sure it leaves many of you aghast but these conclusions are obvious and inevitable once we accept this notion of a medical condition. It is also inevitable practically... if a pill to stop aging is available, who will not opt for it? Except for a small minority of rebels, the vast majority of humanity would rush for the promise of never ending youth. This is the power of medicine.

The boundaries of what constitutes a medical condition/disorder/disease are not fixed. They are determined by their social context. We have been 'medicalizing' and 'pathologizing' what is 'normal' and 'natural' ever since the beginning of medical sciences. Every age has its own fictions.

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