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April 22, 1992

Aging and Ethics: Philosophical Problems in Gerontology

Author Affiliations

United Health Services Hospitals Johnson City, NY

JAMA. 1992;267(16):2256-2257. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480160116054

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


It is hard to dislike a book that begins with a chapter entitled "Meaning of Life" (didn't Monty Python cover that?) and ends 20 authors and 17 chapters later with "if... there is no reason to believe that anything matters, then that does not matter either, and we can approach our absurd lives with irony instead of heroism or despair." In fact, I don't dislike it.

Between the oddball beginning and end, this work deals seriously with urgent questions related to health care for elderly persons. The section titles give a sense of where the book is going: "The Aging Individual," "Aging and Filial Responsibility," "Distributive Justice in an Aging Society," and "Philosophical Reflections on Aging and Death." Most authors are philosophers; a few represent the health sciences.

The introductory chapters are interesting but long and somewhat tangential. However, a piece by Sally Gadow on the meaning of frailty stands