A generation from now, in 2050, the people older than 65 will outnumber than those younger than 15. So says a press release notifying us of a survey article by Ellen Peters et al. (Perspectives on Psychological Science). It suggests that since aging requires crucial decisions related to end-of-life care, it is important for researchers to study the effects of getting old on our ability to make these decisions.
As someone interested in neuroethics and health law, I can spot two areas of research that are begging for grant proposals:
- An investigation into the way aging brains make moral decisions.
- Research into the ability of aging brains to provide informed consent for medical care.
These touch upon important issues of moral psychology and autonomy, so the expertise of experimental philosophers might be useful to bridge that of neuroscientists and bioethicists working in this area.
Follow-up: Raising similar issues, a new study in Nature Neuroscience says older brains are less able to anticipate the risk of loss.