Michael D. West, Ph.D.
On a warm, still summers night in August 1999, I stood in
an Indiana hospital intensive care unit and turned my head to
look at the clock. It was nearly 2am, the dark and deep hours
before the morning light, when most human deaths occur.
My dear mothers heart raced at 140 beats per minute, but that
was about to end. She was dying, the woman who had given
me life. I had long devised a plan that I hoped would one day
help her, a plan some 20 years in the making. It was a plan
to profoundly intervene in the biology of human aging. But
I must say my best efforts seemed impotent at that moment,
staring into the icy face of death.
At my request, a nurse pinched her fingernail bed one more
time with a hemostat, squeezing her tender fingertip with the
force of a pair of pliers. She winced, though imperceptibly.
That was enough for the attending physician. She ordered
the respirator that periodically forced air into my mothers
lungs to be turned off along with the intravenous dopamine
that was driving her heart. My eyes were fixed on the moni-
tors. Moms chest flattened. Her heart at first maintained its
steady rhythm of 140 beats per minute and then slowly began
its descent, drifting downward like a falling leaf in autumn
140, 125, 110, 100