Commerce and Regulation

Managing reproduction has always been a lucrative business. If the experience of infertility services, such in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics, is any indication, immortalization will "take off' once it is an available option for human beings.

Infertility services have been transformed from a small medical specialty to a $2-billion-a-year industry. Couples seeking IVF are spending $44,000 to $200,000 to achieve a single pregnancy. Infertility specialists are now the highest-paid doctors, with experienced ones making an average of $625,000 per year.3

Moreover,

When egg donation began in 1984, Richard Seed paid donors just $250. By 1994 the going rate was $1,500. In 1998 St. Barnabas

Hospital in Livingston, New Jersey, boosted its rate from $2,500 to $5,000 during an egg donation bidding war. But the largest fee— $35,000—is being offered by an anonymous couple who specifically want an attractive, intelligent, Princeton woman's egg.4

At these prices, immortality will rapidly become a major growth industry. Immortalization will certainly be too expensive to be performed on the offspring of average citizens, but this is not to say that it will not be done by those who can afford it, or, at great sacrifice, by those who cannot.

Presumably, governments will take a hand in regulating immortality under pressure from one or another class, but regulation need not be arbitrary. If only because so much of the biotechnology of immortalization will have been developed commercially, and "bottom-line economics rules," regulations governing immortality and the choice of having immortal children will probably follow the same rules adopted for IVF and surrogacy, namely, regulating "as little as possible" and hoping the private sector acts responsibly. In any case, current trends in globalization may create a free market atmosphere for immortalization, rendering meaningless any local efforts at regulation.

Alternatively, less salubrious scenarios pit governments against individuals. As immortals become common, governments, led by mortals, might feel threatened, and may attempt to place limits on the number of immortals women are allowed to produce. Indeed, governments might mandate the authority to decide who shall be born immortal. In an age of unprecedented wealth and massive poverty, of local recession and global capitalism, governments might coerce parents to choose immortalizing an embryo or face forced abortion and sterilization.5 Reproductive freedom of individuals might even be sacrificed to eugenic abstractions such the "purity of race" or some such Nazi aberration.6

On the other hand, recognizing the threat of the population explosion, governments may foster immortalization as a device for curbing human reproduction.7 An enlightened government might make immortalization available through its national health service or its equivalent in insurance. Access to immortalization might even be recognized as a universal right and made available to the offspring of all women on Earth. The cost of immortalization might then be borne by international agencies and the procedure performed without charge to winners of a worldwide lottery administered by UNESCO. The hidden agenda of such a program would be to prevent rich nations from dominating the future immortal world with their nationals, but care would also have to be taken to prevent the segregation of immortals and discrimination either for or against them. These problems, to whatever degree they materialize, might moderate as the number of immortals increases in proportion to the number of mortals in populations around the world.

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