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Immortal Cells Will Test Those Old Friendships

November 12, 1998|ART BUCHWALD

The big news from the rat labs is that scientists are on the verge of the biggest breakthrough in the history of mankind. They are developing living cells that will replace sick ones in the body, guaranteeing longer lives for centuries to come.

What causes bad things to happen to good people is that diseased cells attack the good ones. So in the future, no one will know how long everyone on Earth will be on Social Security.

The fact that immortal cells are around the corner forces us to face up to some difficult decisions.

One is, if everyone is going to be alive, with whom do we want to spend our September golf years?

There are many people we would be just as happy to say goodbye to when they hit their 70s and 80s. The idea of sitting on a porch and listening for the 100th time to someone talking about his grandchildren's gerbils is more than many folks could bear.

People tend to get crankier as they age, and even with the new living cells, no one likes to stand in line with other elderly citizens for fat-free olive oil.

With the immortal cells, scientists cannot predict when someone will leave this mortal coil.

Elgard, in our poker-playing crowd, said that no matter what cells they use, he never wants to live as long as his mother-in-law. He said his reason for this is that his mother-in-law has always said that no matter what age he reached, he would never amount to anything.

Glower felt the same way about his relatives. "I don't think you should keep alive the people you can't stand right now."

It's a dicey decision and one the living will have to face up to. It isn't a question of which person you keep alive, but what kind should stay here in the first place. The scientists predict that, like the atomic bomb, once the cells are developed, we will have to use them.

My suggestion is that you make a list of all the people you are willing to spend your next 100 years with and decide if the cells are worth it. I believe the list will be a lot shorter than anyone thinks.

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