It seems to me that the overall goal of medical research is two-fold:
* To improve life quality
* To delay death for as long as possible
If that is the case, and assuming medical science continues to work towards these goals, won't we eventually encounter huge over-crowding problems worldwide, with huge strain on already dwindling food and energy sources?
I assume this is a conundrum widely considered. Anybody here have any thoughts on the issue?
I can readily agree to your first point, but I'm less convinced of the second. Quality of life matters that can be addressed medically, sure. Length? That seems to be a different area of research; perhaps related, and including some overlap but not the same.
I spent several years working at the HQ of a medical device manufacturer - specifically implantable medical devices like pace makers, surgical pins, insulin pumps designed to be implanted in the lower back, and thing of that nature. Quality of life was THE message, lengthening it in cases of disease controls was a side effect, not so much a goal, if that distinction makes sense. For perspective, the first pace maker produced was an external machine that plugged into the patient on one end and a wall outlet on the other. The patient was still confined to a bed, and the machine itself was quite a bit bigger than you might think. The first implanted one included a mid-sized suitcase that held a battery - the typical patient/recipient couldn't actually carry it themselves for some time after the surgery. These early efforts were absolutely aimed at buying time, but the purpose of that was still to keep the early patients alive long enough to improve the devices themselves, thereby improving the quality of their lives. It was astonishingly successful in a relatively short amount of time.
Regardless, that's a minor side point. Research is being conducted on both issues in any case, and marches ever onward. wright made mention of the issue of income as it relates to medical care and again, my previous experiences support that point. The corporation I worked for has just recently began building (or leasing) facilities in the Asia-Pacific region as the household income levels begins to rise and a middle class begins to emerge. Once there's a statistically meaningful population staying above sustenance, there's generally enough money available to make it worth the company's investment to have a small supply available (or nearby). If you happen to live in a underdeveloped nation, it's highly unlikely that any of their devices could be located within the borders of that country.
I guess what I trying to say is that advances aren't going to be equally accessible. Some people will undoubtedly benefit a great deal and some will be completely left out. Long term, there are a lot of other factors that will have as much or more influence on the population numbers as anything medical science is going to do. People still go blind in Africa from a disease that can be prevented with two doses of medication costing about $1 each.