Genetic Information and Knowing When You Will Die

  • Margaret P. Battin


Most of us, whether we like it or not, already have some rough idea of the likely size and shape of our lives—how long we will live, in what state of health, and what we will eventually die of. We live in an age in which life expectancy patterns for populations and subgroups of populations are known and predictable. We known the frequencies of the principal causes of death and the ages at which they are most likely to prove fata. We known accident rates, risk ratios, and predictive factors for high-risk behaviors. Most important, we know that the age and cause of death of our own parents is the best predictor of our own mortality. Of course, we cannot for the most part tell if we as individuals will actually contract a specific disease, or become the victim of an accident, or succumb to some other cause of death. Furthermore, we often deceive ourselves about the ways in which our own health maintenance habits (or lack thereof) influence our expectable lifespan. Nevertheless, in general, in an extremely rough, often inchoate, not fully recognized way, we have a sense of what to expect about our own deaths and the periods of moribidy that may precede them: what is likely to happen to us, more or less, and about when, at what age, and for what reasons it will occur. If our ancestors all lived into their 90’s and died of “old age,” that is, of conditions that occur primarily at very advanced ages, we have a pretty good chance of doing so too; if they died of heart attacks in their 50’s or cancer in their 60’s our anxieties mount when we reach these ages.


Genetic Diagnosis Genetic Makeup Genetic Science Heritable Condition Human Meaning 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret P. Battin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake City

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