If you’ve ever read a finance blog, you’ll know that they regularly discuss the importance of having health insurance. You need it if you want to get by and survive in the world. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay high out-of-pocket fees that could potentially bankrupt you.
It’s true. Depending on where you live, insurance is often the only viable way to access healthcare services. However, you also need to look at the other side of the equation: not just what you’re paying, but what you’re getting in return.
Modern medicine really isn’t that much more advanced than the witch doctoring of old. Yes, we now have the scientific method to back up a lot of the things that we do. And, yes, there are some remarkably effective therapies out there (such as antibiotics). But in terms of the grand scheme of human life, modern medicine is barely moving the needle. Most of the gains in health we’ve seen over the last two centuries actually come from elsewhere.
Sanitation and food
Take sanitation and food, for instance. Two hundred years ago, only the wealthiest people had access to flush toilets and nutritious diets. Everyone else had to make do with potties or latrines, and whatever food they could get in the season. The vast majority of people were horrendously poor, and even the slightest tragedy could send an entire family off track for years financially.
When sewers, toilets, waste collection, and grocery stores started popping up, things began to change. People stopped getting infectious conditions, like cholera and dysentery and began making it into their later years. Mid-life mortality fell dramatically, as did child mortality, pushing up the average life expectancy. While medical technology helped save lives, it was actually relatively unimportant in the grand scheme of things. It didn’t make a great deal of difference by itself.
Medicine can’t cure diseases of aging
And this brings us to the critical point: medicine still isn’t doing much to prevent death. It may be able to extend life by a couple of years by addressing various diseases, but it isn’t able to reset the body to a more youthful form.
This is the fundamental problem with modern medicine. It is trying to address the health problems of the 21st century with the tools of the 20th and 19th. We no longer live in a world where it makes sense to “cure” diseases when the underlying cause of 90% of the health problems we face relate to aging itself.
Estimates suggest that if there was a cure for all cancers today, it would increase human life expectancy by around three years. That’s pretty good. But it pales in comparison to the doubling of average lifespan seen between 1850 and 2000 – something that sanitation, wealth, and better hygiene made possible.
The reason for such a small increase is that there is a disease waiting to come up from behind and finish people off. If you don’t die of cancer, heart disease or stroke are waiting in the wings to get you.
How medicine should change
Medicine needs to change how it operates. All of the major diseases we face today are the result of a single underlying problem: the aging process. If it was possible to keep people youthful, then there wouldn’t be any need to develop complicated treatments for cancer or diabetes. We could simply address the root cause of everything and deal with it.
What’s more, this approach is easier than many medics realize. While solutions are still a long way off, it turns out that the body already has self-repair and regeneration mechanisms built-in. We wouldn’t need to engineer these. Instead, all we need to do is activate them to their full potential.
This method is potentially superior to the options available today. Medical malpractice is a serious issue, with the average settlement going up more than 200% in some areas. Getting medical care is potentially dangerous for a lot of patients, particularly those with pre-existing conditions.
Addressing aging before it happens reduces the risk of death and also helps people avoid some of the dangers inherent in the system. Activating cellular rejuvenating machinery in the body nips diseases, such as diabetes, in the bud, preventing them from developing.
If all this sounds hopelessly futuristic, then think again. NASA and the military are already trialing compounds that they hope will make people stronger and younger. And there are now a host of compounds on the market, designed to address various aspects of aging, with some success.