I can start this article off by telling you that I am never going to die. But sometimes I think, “What if I were?” There are questions. When would I die? What would kill me? Would I want to prevent it? Could it be prevented? What lengths would I go in order to prevent my demise?
Some people are very at peace with death and dying. I am, more or less, indifferent.
Late last year a neurosurgeon named Ralph Mobbs in Sydney, Australia met a 60-year-old patient suffering from a virulent form of the modern-day pox of cancer. His cancer was chordoma, which causes rare tumors that form on the base of the neck and/or spine.
Turn your head now, look to the left. Those vertebrae that allowed your head to rotate are the ones where the cancerous tumors grew in Mobbs’ patient.
If chordoma is rare, it’s treatment is even rarer. Due to the risky spinal locations of the tumors the only answer for those who do undergo surgery has been to remove the diseased vertebral sections and reconstruct the bone with material from elsewhere in the body. But now we live in the age of the increasingly commonplace 3D printer. Mobbs treated his patient by undertaking the world’s first implantation of 3D-printed vertebrae in a marathon surgery spanning more than 15 hours.
The vertebrae printed for Mobbs’ surgery are made of titanium. Though 3D printing of bones, organs and joints will undoubtedly be widespread in the future. The goal is to use a patient’s own stem cells and utilize them to pre-print organs, etc. onto a 3D scaffold. This idea sounds completely plausible given the strides we’ve made so far in science. It would also reduce or eliminate the need for organ transplants from other human donors. We had better get our fill of stories about how Mrs. X began having memories which weren’t hers following her heart transplant – those memories which wind up proving to come from the former heart’s owner – for soon we won’t need anything but a printer for our organs.
Now, for the important question. Would you or I seek to have our body parts printed as we die or get damaged in the process of our hell-wrecked lifestyles? Hunter S. Thompson could have had a new hip printed. Lou Reed could have printed a new liver.
I can imagine scores of certain folk saying they would want a natural life and death. No crazy organs made on printers. Not even from their own stem cells. Many people seem to not want to live forever or even live to 100. But I would prolong and ensure my life for as long as possible. This science is, to me, most welcome. It’s almost a huge Fuck You to the poisons in our world that would destroy our bodies, particularly those pollutant toxins borne of capitalism, free market reign and “progress.”
Of course, we’d have to quit breeding more people in the event that no one died very often. And if the printers all broke, would we simply go extinct?
FUCK IT, LET’S PRINT OUR BODIES AND PARTY!