Many of our recent readings have dealt with the advancement of medicine and technology and how it has affected the length of life. In America, we see this triumph over death as a great accomplishment and therefore strive to keep increasing the length of life. However, are we raising quality of life as well, or just delaying the inevitable processes of nature? As we age and become more feeble and sickly, technology that preserves our lives becomes more increasingly present. It is used to keep our heart pumping when the heart has stopped doing so on its own, to keep us breathing, and to replace body parts that can no longer perform correctly. These actions can prolong life, but they also commonly leave patients in a state of non-life, non-death; comas, forms of social death after living longer than family and peers, and failed organ transplants. For these reasons we can wonder not only how beneficial these actions are, but also when should we plan to stop technology advancements. After a point, extended life is no longer a beneficial thing if all other important aspects of life are absent.
This argument is presented in the book/movie Tuck Everlasting. The Tucks have lived for over a hundred years after drinking from a stream that gave them eternal life. Winnie Foster falls in love with one of the Tuck sons and eventually learns their secret of immortality; he tries to convince her to drink from the stream and wait for him so that they can share the rest of time together. The father, Angus Tuck has a conversation with Winnie in which he tries to convince her otherwise (see video link). It is here that the concept of longevity versus quality of life is incorporated into this fantasy film. Angus establishes the idea that living forever is not such a great gift; they become a being in a world in which everything around them passes by throughout time. They no longer have an importance as an individual since they exist outside the boundaries of normal functioning life. He believes that Winnie, as a mortal, is able to live a true life of meaning and social connections with the world she lives in. Taking Tuck’s advice, Winnie decides not to drink from the spring and we see that she dies after a long and fulfilling life; the film shows us that if given the choice, opting for a natural life is more meaningful and rewarding than “living forever”. Maybe this should be considered as we continue along our path of forever advancing science and technology.