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Writer looking for help regarding death prediction

  1. Jun 5, 2012 #1

    I'm writing a novel set in the future and wanted to find an opinion on the future possibilty of determining a person's life expectancy down to a fairly specific prediction. For example, If you had a very old man and access to all of his medical information (dna, etc.), could you predict he had 24 months to live, plus or minus one month? Plus or minus a week?

    Would that ever be possible?

    If so:
    What sort of medical info from the person would be needed?
    What science breakthroughs would be needed?

    Thanks in advance for any opinions.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 5, 2012 #2


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    Staff Emeritus
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    Welcome to the forums,

    I'm pretty sure the answer to your question is no for several reasons*. The biggest point is that our biology is largely contextual dependent on environment, we could have many exact copies of the same man and if they lived different lives they would die at different times. There's the obvious points that the person could get hit by a car but then less obvious like the level of stress, intoxicants in the environment, whether or not they have good heating, diet etc.

    The only thing I could think of as a possibility is that with a very thorough understanding of biology (in other words we understand every -omic from genomics to phenomics), an extensive database of how others have aged at the molecular level (and why) and detailed knowledge of the person's lifestyle then you may be able to give an upper limit on age or at least a series of probabilities e.g 90% survival at 12 months, 60% at 24, 10% at 36, 1% at 60 etc.

    *the obvious point being that if they have a terminal/life-limiting disease then you could give them a life expectancy.
  4. Jun 5, 2012 #3
    Thanks Ryan! I appreciate it.

    I should have added (if it changes anyone's opinion), that the cause of death is assumed "natural" (i.e., no cancer, accidents, etc.).
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