If There was a Death Test, Would You Take It?

my_tombstone

You might remember that I said one time that I had never met a DNA test that I wouldn’t take.  I’m asking myself if I feel the same way about a different kind of test.

This week, an article was published titled “”Death test” that reveals if you’ll be alive in five years: Blood sample will identify those as risk from range of diseases.”  I love headlines.  They grab your attention, but they don’t necessarily portray things quite accurately.

First, let me say that this isn’t a DNA test.  This is a medical or “biomarker” test.  Second, it does NOT tell you if you’ll be dead within 5 years.

Still, the article itself is a good read.  The second sentence in the article really sums up the study quite well.  “It uses a sample of blood to identify those at high risk of being killed by diseases ranging from heart disease to cancer.”

That’s vastly different than telling you yes, or no, you’ll be dead within 5 years.

The underlying paper titled “Biomarker Profiling by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy for the Prediction of All-Cause Mortality” An Observational Study of 17,345 Persons” was published last week in PLOS Medicine.  You can see clearly why the article had to come up with a new title.

The paper itself says, in summary, that a combination of biomarker tests is highly predictive of people who will pass away within 5 years, or are dead at the 5 year marker, even seemingly healthy people.  This includes causes of death such as heart disease and cancers which have not yet been diagnosed.  These tests, when combined, are much more reliable than any of these tests individually at picking up the general fragility of the human body that may be stressed but at such a low level that we don’t know it yet.

“Individuals with a biomarker score in the top 20% had a risk of dying within five years that was 19 times greater than that of individuals with a score in the bottom 20% (288 versus 15 deaths).”

This type of testing indeed may prove to be a powerful tool, eventually.  It’s not here yet, it’s not soup yet, and there is a lot more study that needs to be done.  The editors also caution people not to confuse correlation with causation.  In other words, these biomarkers measured are not causing the problems, they are simply measureable symptoms.

Having said this, a small group of online friends was having a discussion about this topic last evening.  The question was, “If there was a death test that actually would tell you if you’re going to be dead within 5 years, would you take it?”  Of course, there were the requisite jokes, but there was also serious discussion about what would change.  Like, no more saving for a rainy day, I’d retire now and you can eat as many Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies as you want!  What, you think that’s not serious???

So, if the 5-Year-Death-Test was a reality, would you take it?  You can vote here but tell me in the comments what you think and how your life would differ if the answer was yes, or even if the answer was no.  How would the knowledge conveyed by that test change your life?

14 thoughts on “If There was a Death Test, Would You Take It?

  1. 61% would. Surprising. I certainly would, then I would take out an insurance policy. Usually, in a Life Insurance policy, we bet we shall die, while the insurance co is betting we shall live. In this case, the deck is stacked against the Insurance co. Then I would max out loans and credit cards, doing all I want to do, while my beneficiaries will do well.

    I have learned the above from Wall st and the banks. It is all about the dollar.

    If you think about it, the above is a good plan anyway, even without the Death Test. We shall die anyway.

  2. Although undecided at this time, if it was available and I decided to take it there are changes I would make. 1) Devote all my time to genealogical research to “finish” as much as possible for my grandchildren 2) Quit my unrewarding job – so I could do #1 3) Spend time with my grandchildren and make trips to meet some of the distant cousins I have “met” through research.

  3. As certain as some things are, that’s one thing that’s never certain…only that it will happen….not when. 🙂

  4. Of course, if it took as long to get the results of the Death Test as the results of the Big Y Test, it might be a waste of money since I could be dead before the results came in. 😀

  5. In my case, no. I would Not test for this. I watch my health closely, get annual check ups, blood work every 3 months, work closely with my MD. Perhaps, if I had some sudden bad health issues and wanted to know how long I had to live, then maybe.

    Loved James Cannon’s comments though, very true and yet funny, and Don Colins, yes, I’ll leave it to my creator to call me home.

  6. 23andme has as one of the traits describing chances of living various times to old age death;

    I also saw one for effective age versus actual age.

    • Actually, there’s probably a way of triangulating all of the 23andMe results to approximate the same “death test”, which I might add has not been FDA-approved. 🙂

  7. I was turned down by an insurance company once because they thought I would be dead by the time I turned 40. That 39th year was a hard one to face and live through. In April of this year, if the Good Lord is willing, I will turn 77. So much for predictions. Probably just another test to get more money. I agree with Don and Brownie.

    • In 1963, my mother was given 6 months to live. In 1993, a different set of doctors gave her 6 months to live. In 1997, she died. She was also told she couldn’t have children after my sister was born. Guess me and my two brothers don’t exist.

      No, I wouldn’t take the test. Too many people would take it and freak if it indicated death, or get shocked when they die after the test came up negative. The mind is a wonderful thing – if you think you are going to die, your mind can make it happen. In Richard’s case, he would probably sue the company after he had blown all that money and survived past 5 years. I haven’t checked with an actuarial expert, but taking my parents’ ages at death + a health condition that reduces life expectancy by 25 years on average, I am pretty sure the expert would either not charge me or want cash up front. On the other hand, some of my relatives have been above average in life expectancy in life span, hitting the upper 80s – 92+. My 23andMe results show me with typical odds of reaching 100.

  8. I vote no.

    A biochemical fishing expedition would be of questionable medical value at best. If 23andMe can’t pass muster with the FDA, I can’t imagine how this would. A DTC “death test” would be a public health nightmare. I assume no one is interested in marketing it as such.

    It’s an interesting concept, but as a practical matter, the authors make little sense when they talk about “targeted prevention” in conjunction with dragnet blood testing.

  9. I have a cousins whose spouse passed away from a horribly debilating disease. Their children were asked if they wanted to be tested to determine if they had the gene for the disese. All of them turned it down. At firstI my thoughts were “WHY; wouldn’t it be better to know so you could fight it? ” But the more I thought about it the more I believe they were right. They are living their lives as normal happy people, very aware that stuff happens and if something developes they will deal with it then. They refuse to watch their children with the thought in mind that something might possibly have been passed through them to their children. As one of them said “I refuse to paint my life with the dark clouds of what if” I have to agree. Worry doesn’t change the future it just robs today of it’s joy. So no, I don’t want to know. What will be will be and when the maker wants me I’ll move on wiht a joyous heart. I’ve already done as Carolyn Lea said Given up an unrewarding job, spend a lot of time on genealogy, enjoy my grandkids and eventually will get to meet cousins I’ve connected thru thanks to genealogy.

  10. I would take it on the assumption that most of the causes of death within five years are treatable at such an early stage. Would you take a mammogram? Would you take a colonoscopy? A prostate exam? The “death test” is nothing but an extension of those.

  11. Pingback: DNAeXplain Archives – General Information Articles | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

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