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<v Albert Rosenfeld>This is something we thought was inevitable, forever aging. <v Albert Rosenfeld>Two things you can't do anything about death and taxes. <v Albert Rosenfeld>Well, I don't know that we'll ever be able to do anything about taxes. <v Albert Rosenfeld>But there are some people who are beginning to think we can do something about death, you <v Albert Rosenfeld>know, like postpone it. <v Speaker>You make me feel so young. <v Speaker>You make me feel so spring has sprung. <v Speaker>And every time I see you grin, I'm such a happy individual. <v woman>Well, it sounds very bizarre now, but if there was a pill <v woman>that um, that everybody could live longer and feel better <v woman>while they're living longer, then I think you could just adjust to that notion. <v woman>I would have no trouble adjusting. <v Speaker>Just like a couple of tots.
<v narrator>It's a question for our time. Something to consider now. <v narrator>A choice may be right around the corner. <v narrator>As science unlocks the mysteries of aging and seeks out an antidote to death, the <v narrator>prospect of everlasting earthly life becomes more possible. <v narrator>Will we decide, after all, to cheat death? <v hairdresser>Yeah, I think probably being in the type of business I am, I would say my first reaction <v hairdresser>would be fine if you can keep me living longer. <v hairdresser>But I want to look good. <v hairdresser>I want to feel good. I want to be active during those years. <v narrator>The impulse to live and live long will not be denied. <v narrator>And with gusto, our generation has entered the race against old age, hoping that <v narrator>some new answers may be the right ones. <v narrator>And when reality falters, illusion will do. <v woman>It makes you look younger. It makes you feel younger. <v woman>I think I was at my peak when I was 40 years old, the way I felt and the way <v woman>I looked. And that's what I wanted to achieve when I had a facelift.
<v woman>40. [Interviewer: Did that work?] Yes it did. <v woman>It did. <v narrator>Magic elixirs have eluded us and all else? <v narrator>Maybe just a snare and a delusion. <v narrator>But suddenly, in a variety of laboratories from a handful of well-respected scientists, <v narrator>the world's oldest fantasy show signs of becoming a reality. <v narrator>Dr. Richard Cutler. <v Dr. Richard Cutler>There's something that being on the verge of a of a discovery that humanity <v Dr. Richard Cutler>has been looking and searching for thousands of years. <v Dr. Richard Cutler>I think it just makes it fascinating and it keeps you going around the clock. <v narrator>Dr. Donner Denckla. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>It's really chemical engineering. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>Once you have identified a hormone from the territory to make a blocker to it, it's <v M.D. Donner Denckla>no big deal. This is all within the realm of possibility. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>It's been done before. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>No new principles involved. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>It's easy. <v narrator>Easy. Well, it's simpler than they thought. <v narrator>They say the subject is the aging process. <v narrator>The object is to define it, delay it.
<v narrator>Maybe even to halt it. Former Life and Saturday Review science writer Albert <v narrator>Rosenfeld. <v Albert Rosenfeld>There are some very interesting ideas. <v Albert Rosenfeld>Good research. <v Albert Rosenfeld>Very convincing research that suggests to me that we're going to be able to do something <v Albert Rosenfeld>about the aging process, like maybe abolish it to a great extent. <v narrator>These scientists think the answers are within grasp, but exactly where those answers <v narrator>lie is up for grabs. <v narrator>Working with common bred mold, University of Wisconsin molecular biologist Kenneth <v narrator>Munkres puts his faith in what's called the super gene theory. <v narrator>Some newly discovered genes that act as a repair and maintenance shop for the body's <v narrator>cells. <v Kenneth Munkres>The most amazing thing that has come from this work is that there are a large <v Kenneth Munkres>number of genes, but they're all on one of the seven chromosomes in a <v Kenneth Munkres>group we call this super gene cluster. <v Kenneth Munkres>It's a good feeling
<v Kenneth Munkres>to make discoveries that you think are important. <v Kenneth Munkres>To find other people on the field, such as Dick Cutler <v Kenneth Munkres>making analogous discoveries, working with other organisms. <v narrator>At the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, Dr. Richard Cutler agrees with Munkres <v narrator>that certain enzymes play an important part in prolonging lives. <v Dr. Richard Cutler>The processes that we still seem to be involved in Gurry life span seem to be rather <v Dr. Richard Cutler>simple. It's something that one could manipulate without complex genetic <v Dr. Richard Cutler>engineering or completely rebuilding the body. <v Dr. Richard Cutler>It's things like increasing the concentration of enzymes or a few simple <v Dr. Richard Cutler>amino acids, antioxidants. <v Dr. Richard Cutler>So it might be not too complicated to substantially increase lifespan. <v narrator>Using a totally different approach, bright, intense, Harvard educated M.D. <v narrator>Donner Denckla says flatly that he has stopped aging cold. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>In the instances in my own research, when we take out pituitary,
<v M.D. Donner Denckla>which we suspect contains a deleterious hormone, the animals <v M.D. Donner Denckla>in certain major bodily functions simply show <v M.D. Donner Denckla>no age associated decline. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>There is no change at all with it. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>Now, whether we can do this in man, whether we can do it in enough different <v M.D. Donner Denckla>bodily functions in man to maintain truly <v M.D. Donner Denckla>perfect health or close to perfect health or excellent health, whatever you want <v M.D. Donner Denckla>to view it, we don't know. <v narrator>Denckla says that with adequate funding, he could develop an antidote to what he calls, <v narrator>DECO, a kind of death hormone secreted by the pituitary to Denker. <v narrator>The pituitary is the center of the aging process to most other researchers. <v narrator>However, aging is centered in the individual cells. <v narrator>Longevity research writer and author Albert Rosenfeld agrees. <v narrator>There is a sequence of events leading to death. <v narrator>It's a kind of aging clock, but the question and controversy is where is
<v narrator>that clock? <v Albert Rosenfeld>There are two major theories here. <v Albert Rosenfeld>One is, is that the clock is in the brain and the pituitary and hypothalamus <v Albert Rosenfeld>region and that it's hormonal in nature. <v Albert Rosenfeld>And the other is that it resides in the DNA and the genetic material <v Albert Rosenfeld>in each cell. <v Albert Rosenfeld>Now, the two are not incompatible. <v Albert Rosenfeld>I happen to think they both may be right. <v Albert Rosenfeld>I think if you and I were space engineers designing <v Albert Rosenfeld>a some vehicle that we wanted to have destroyed at a given <v Albert Rosenfeld>time, we would build in some redundant system. <v Albert Rosenfeld>So if one didn't work, the other would some sort of self-destruct <v Albert Rosenfeld>system. And there's no reason to think that the creator of these organisms was <v Albert Rosenfeld>any less clever than the people at NASA. <v Albert Rosenfeld>But it's also hard to grasp. <v Albert Rosenfeld>It's just very hard to grasp because it goes so deeply against <v Albert Rosenfeld>everything that we based our lives on.
<v hairdresser>I didn't know this. There's a certain amount of security in knowing that there's a <v hairdresser>finite, or a limited amount of time because it tends to be an incentive to make you do <v hairdresser>things. <v narrator>If science sees eternal youth and everlasting vigor as possible and simpler to <v narrator>arrive at than imagined. Will we in this century now after <v narrator>heart transplants and test tube babies herald the first non aging humans? <v narrator>And will we have gone too far, interfered with some grand plan? <v narrator>Marquette University philosopher Mary Rousseau. <v Mary Rousseau>Think the first thing I'd say is that I don't see anything morally wrong with that basic <v Mary Rousseau>idea. We can reverse the aging process. <v Mary Rousseau>Why not? <v Mary Rousseau>There'd be no moral reasons against it that I can think of. <v Albert Rosenfeld>Well, the old idea that you're tampering with God's work or with nature, <v Albert Rosenfeld>and my response to that is that you point to me anything we do where we do <v Albert Rosenfeld>not tamper with nature or God's work.
<v narrator>But what about the pastoral admonition to live each day as though it were your last? <v narrator>Would religion, as we know it, be out of business? <v Mary Rousseau>I would think so, at least for the biblical religions, for <v Mary Rousseau>Christianity and Judaism. <v Mary Rousseau>Death is looked upon as a punishment for sin and something <v Mary Rousseau>that we need to be saved from. <v Mary Rousseau>And for Christians at least to be saved from death through the resurrection <v Mary Rousseau>of Christ is the very heart of our religious belief. <v Mary Rousseau>So if we didn't have the fact of death and didn't have a need to be redeemed from it, <v Mary Rousseau>aren't our religious ideas would certainly change. <v Dr. Richard Cutler>So it really influences our life and our behavior and our <v Dr. Richard Cutler>philosophy and the whole works. It's a deeply embedded in our whole culture. <v Dr. Richard Cutler>Is our- is our lifespan, period of growth, short period of good health <v Dr. Richard Cutler>and a long period of declining health.
<v Mary Rousseau>The fact that we now must expect <v Mary Rousseau>to die after a relatively short lifespan. <v Mary Rousseau>The older I get, the shorter it seems. <v Mary Rousseau>I think it forces us into a kind of moral seriousness that we might not have otherwise. <v Mary Rousseau>It gives us a sense that we ought to accomplish <v Mary Rousseau>something definite with our lives. <v Mary Rousseau>And the time span for doing that becomes <v Mary Rousseau>important in deciding what the accomplishment could realistically be. <v Mary Rousseau>Maybe if we could expect to live indefinitely, we would have a more happy <v Mary Rousseau>go lucky, carefree attitude. <v Mary Rousseau>Not think of our lives as a definite project with a beginning, and a middle and an end. <v narrator>Currently, funds earmarked for aging research are generally designed to study <v narrator>and to contribute to the well-being of the elderly, not to engage in anything as sweeping
<v narrator>as everlasting youth. <v Albert Rosenfeld>Well, I think there is just in the general budget cutting overall <v Albert Rosenfeld>there's some budget cutting and biomedical research. <v Albert Rosenfeld>And actually biomedical research is suffering less than most, though <v Albert Rosenfeld>what happens is it's hard to bring new young people into the field <v Albert Rosenfeld>when you don't have money. I think people tend to stay with a very safe things <v Albert Rosenfeld>so that daring or innovative concepts don't get the hearing <v Albert Rosenfeld>that they might otherwise. <v narrator>Faced with present problems in the Social Security system, Washington might not applaud <v narrator>an increase of 50 to 100 years in lifespan. <v narrator>Denckla, frustrated and bitter that his funds were not renewed, thinks that he may be too <v narrator>close to an answer for Washington's comfort. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>Well, I think we could have with. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>Essentially adequate financing, which is really relatively modest <v M.D. Donner Denckla>compared to what's being currently spent largely, in my opinion, wastefully.
<v M.D. Donner Denckla>We could probably have an animal antidote to DECO in five to seven years. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>I don't when it would happen to human- have adequate testing for humans. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>I don't know. <v Albert Rosenfeld>I would love to see some support given to W. <v Albert Rosenfeld>Donner Denckla and his research in the so-called aging <v Albert Rosenfeld>hormone death hormone. <v Albert Rosenfeld>For two reasons. One is that he now has hardly any support <v Albert Rosenfeld>and needs it badly. But the major the second and major reason would be because <v Albert Rosenfeld>I think that he has the best chance of anyone of coming <v Albert Rosenfeld>up with an answer to the aging process and an answer <v Albert Rosenfeld>on which one can act and do something about within the not <v Albert Rosenfeld>too far off future. If he turns out to be right. <v narrator>And what if Denckla is right and finds what he calls that magic bullet <v narrator>to block the death hormone, how would it work? <v M.D. Donner Denckla>I think that what you would see is
<v M.D. Donner Denckla>a large number of bodily systems. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>There would be no aging. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>For example, in terms of athletics, we've tested animals for maximum aerobic <v M.D. Donner Denckla>capacity, there's no change in max aerobic capacity. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>Therefore, you would maintain completely constant <v M.D. Donner Denckla>physical prowess. Let's say you started the program. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>The simplest case at 21, you would <v M.D. Donner Denckla>stop the aging in cycle of reaction time, <v M.D. Donner Denckla>maximum aerobic capacity. A large component of the immune system. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>Certain changes in the brain which we've seen. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>You would stop a whole lot of these aging processes. <v narrator>Richard Cutler sees extended lifespan as a kind of stretching out process, <v narrator>somewhat like a rubber band. <v Dr. Richard Cutler>But my guess would be that if one is going to further extend <v Dr. Richard Cutler>lifespan along the same lines, it naturally evolved
<v Dr. Richard Cutler>that you will have a longer period of development if you're going <v Dr. Richard Cutler>to begin childhood. <v Dr. Richard Cutler>A longer period of maintenance of good health <v Dr. Richard Cutler>and also a company that would be a longer period of declining health. <v Albert Rosenfeld>One good possibility is that we could live out <v Albert Rosenfeld>our natural lifespans. Whatever that is, some people guess one hundred and 10, one <v Albert Rosenfeld>hundred and twenty in the best of health and then kind of go like the wonderful one horse <v Albert Rosenfeld>shea does. <v Albert Rosenfeld>Lot of people would settle for that because what they fear is not death, but the long <v Albert Rosenfeld>dying and being helpless, etc.. <v narrator>In a world void of the long dying and helplessness, personal relationships <v narrator>would also change, creating some sticky problems and some strange bedfellows.
<v woman>Well, I guess if you could look younger and be as smart as you are when you're older. <v woman>Wouldn't make any difference. <v woman>But aren't you going to mix up the different decades and change as people go <v woman>through in life? I mean, how can you even if you look 25 <v woman>and you're say hundred and two? <v woman>How are you going to relate to the real 25 year old? <v woman>That would be very confusing I would think. <v Mary Rousseau>I like to focus upon intimacy and friendship <v Mary Rousseau>and community as what gives human life its <v Mary Rousseau>human quality. So that if we achieve those <v Mary Rousseau>things, we're we're doing something worthwhile no matter what else we do. <v Mary Rousseau>And it seems to me that that's the kind of quality of life which could very <v Mary Rousseau>well adjust to a life that would go on forever and that life could <v Mary Rousseau>become even more precious and more meaningful to us <v Mary Rousseau>because it could last longer.
<v hairdresser>What happens now? You kind of tend to get bored with one particular job, <v hairdresser>a marriage, for instance, saying you're going to be married for your whole life, I mean a <v hairdresser>whole life. Now, you're talking about hundreds of years. <v narrator>Professionally and economically, what if this all comes to pass? <v narrator>Would we open up some kind of cosmic Pandora's box and free into <v narrator>an already chaotic world countless more problems to cope with? <v Michael Hudson>That's why people die. You can say naturally. <v Michael Hudson>Death was invented so that society would remain flexible and you wouldn't have <v Michael Hudson>the bottlenecks of old people blocking up jobs. <v narrator>Economist Michael Hudson has written extensively on how life extension
<v narrator>would affect the economy. <v Michael Hudson>The US government has done the studies of what problems these are likely <v Michael Hudson>to cause, and the studies have upset it so much that the general feeling <v Michael Hudson>in Washington is they're sorry they invented the kidney dialysis machine. <v Michael Hudson>It causes more problems than it's worth because the people who were, <v Michael Hudson>to use an example kept alive on the kidney dialysis machines for fifty <v Michael Hudson>thousand dollars a year, don't produce fifty thousand dollars worth of goods and <v Michael Hudson>services. And yet there is an obligation to support everybody on <v Michael Hudson>this machine who has the problem because you can't discriminate. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>If you have true life extension with full vigor, the beautiful thing about that is <v M.D. Donner Denckla>your memory will be intact. Memory starts to decline. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>Thirty five seriously decline. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>I mean seriously. You can take another job. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>You can learn languages. You can learn another career. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>Because in the way I look at life extension is your brain will be completely <v M.D. Donner Denckla>intact. You will not have a declining memory.
<v M.D. Donner Denckla>So there's no the average person who has a certain joie de vivre, or joy <v M.D. Donner Denckla>of life. He wants to be a chef then become a chef. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>He wants to be a biochemist, then become a biochemist. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>It's marvelous, this concept. <v Michael Hudson>How will you get new professors in universities, for instance, when there's already seven <v Michael Hudson>years in your tenured? Well, imagine 100 years. <v Michael Hudson>And the man still tenured, he's still teaching what people didn't want to hear one <v Michael Hudson>hundred years ago. And you can't get rid of them because you can't train them to be a <v Michael Hudson>machinist or something else, because a job has to do with someone's whole <v Michael Hudson>personality. And that's one thing to remain vigorous in your field. <v Michael Hudson>And it's another thing to learn a whole new field and have to begin all <v Michael Hudson>over again at the beginning. <v Albert Rosenfeld>If older people were no longer old in the usual <v Albert Rosenfeld>sense in terms of being decrepit but more vigorous and healthy and could continue <v Albert Rosenfeld>to be productive and take care of themselves, they would no longer need this medical <v Albert Rosenfeld>care and use up all those resources. <v Michael Hudson>It's very easy to say yes if we live longer.
<v Michael Hudson>Everybody can be productive if everything works out right. <v Michael Hudson>It's like saying if we had some ham we could have some ham and eggs if we had some eggs. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>I think medicine is at a crossroads. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>And either we support what I consider a true <v M.D. Donner Denckla>investigation into life extension, which is healthy life extension, <v M.D. Donner Denckla>or we go with a patchwork system. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>Sweden right now is running 25 percent <v M.D. Donner Denckla>of their GNP. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>For medical care, and it's completely socialized system. <v M.D. Donner Denckla>United States is running 10 percent of our gross national product <v M.D. Donner Denckla>is in medicine. <v narrator>But if it comes right down to it. Do we really want to live forever or nearly forever <v narrator>or 50 to 100 years longer than we do now? <v narrator>Would we finally go to the fountain of youth to drink what's been called the anti <v narrator>aging cocktails? <v woman 2>Sure. No question.
<v woman 2>I'd do it. <v woman 3>I think it's wonderful. I mean, if I wouldn't have to go to the plastic surgeons to have <v woman 3>all this done and it wouldn't have to go to the <v woman 3>doctor, for your rheumatism or things like that, I think <v woman 3>would be fantastic. I really would be the first in line for the bell. <v woman 3>I'd be elbowing my way up to the front of the line. <v man>Sure. <v man>I think it'd be pretty hard to find somebody to say no. <v woman 4>I would probably travel read. <v woman 4>Pamper myself like I'm doing now and just enjoying. <v woman 4>And not working as hard. <v Albert Rosenfeld>I don't like it so much immortality that people want. <v Albert Rosenfeld>Even those that. But a sense of having things more open ended
<v Albert Rosenfeld>someone's if- so that you can live as sort of as long as you enjoy living <v Albert Rosenfeld>and then be able to turn it off magically <v Albert Rosenfeld>somehow. <v woman>We're crazy mortals. We want everything we can't have, you know? <v woman>And I think there is a grand plan, some place that has it all figured out. <v woman>And you're supposed to kind of catch on to that at some period in your life. <v woman>And I'm still asking those questions. <v woman>I don't know if living 50 years longer would give me any more answers. <v woman>And it would depend very much on how good that life was. <v woman>I kind of like knowing I may have a limited time to do what I have to do. <v woman>I don't even know what that is yet. <v hairdresser>If you had all the time in the world. <v hairdresser>I wonder if it would be hard to commit to things, whether it be a person or a job or <v hairdresser>anything for a length of time. <v narrator>Isn't there something enviable about old age? <v narrator>Released from commitments and competition?
<v Speaker>[Music plays] <v narrator>Of course, none of this may come to pass this fountain of youth. <v narrator>This magic control over our destinies, the possibility of new questions like <v narrator>when is enough enough? <v narrator>Policymakers, faced with existing problems, may see to that, but still <v narrator>obeying a mandate to study aging, to stop cancer, to prevent <v narrator>the physical ravages of age. <v narrator>Researchers continue to travel down the route to immortality. <v Dr. Richard Cutler>I think it's coming. And so we ought to be prepared for it. <v Dr. Richard Cutler>Instead, what we are preparing for is a population <v Dr. Richard Cutler>that is more and more senile, but not preparing <v Dr. Richard Cutler>for the possibility that there might be certainly a few simple treatments <v Dr. Richard Cutler>or they might be able to undertake that will dramatically increase their lifespan by 50
<v Dr. Richard Cutler>years. But certainly I think that the <v Dr. Richard Cutler>bottom line on this is that I think we owe it to ourselves to find out.
Cheating Death
Producing Organization
Wisconsin Educational Television Network
WHA-TV (Television station : Madison, Wis.)
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Program Description
"'Washington is sorry the dialysis machine was ever invented,' states economist Michael Hudson in his film, pointing to high cost of keeping people alive. We know too, that our current social security system is in a shambles, as elderly people increase in number and collect what is theirs. There is certainly no plan in making to accommodate eternal life; Yet three highly respected scientists in this program say that they are not very far from finding an antidote to death, or, at the very least, a means to a dramatic extension of life. "Avoiding a portentous or 'Doomsday' tone, this program raises some provocative 'what if'' questions about the world's oldest fantasy 'the dream of eternal youth' as it comes close to becoming a reality."--1982 Peabody Award entry form. This program features interviews with researchers such as Dr. Richard Cutler, Dr. Donner Denckla, and Kenneth Munkres, science writer Albert Rosenfield, philosopher Mary Rousseau, and economist Michael Hudson.
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Producing Organization: Wisconsin Educational Television Network
Producing Organization: WHA-TV (Television station : Madison, Wis.)
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-c4146fe0330 (Filename)
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Duration: 0:25:00
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Chicago: “Cheating Death,” 1982-06-24, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “Cheating Death.” 1982-06-24. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: Cheating Death. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from