Sympathy for the VAMPire

| Biology
Rumor has it that the scientists over at NIH have developed a new life extension technique: Viral Augmentation and Mortality Prevention (VAMP). Subjects treated with VAMP develop substantially improved strength, reflexes, and eyesight. They also develop dramatically faster healing and appear to have significantly improved life expectancy, at list four times as long in animal models.

Like any medical procedure, VAMP has side effects. The two big ones are extreme sensitivity to sunlight and severe, chronic, anemia. As a consequence, subjects require frequent transfusions of whole blood. Obviously, this is an undesirable side effect and one we'd like to fix in future development, but one would expect that plenty of people would be willing to trade off a bit of a blood dependency for being immortal and superstrong. That seems like an especially good trade if you were old, terminally ill, etc.

So, ignoring the issue of whether the FDA would approve VAMP, is this something good for society? Once we get past objections about how immortality is inherently bad, we've got a situation that's inherently exclusive. Each subject requires a support base of some number of normal humans to provide transfusions for them, so this means that only a small fraction of the population can be treated—at least until we find some way to produce blood in vivo, which is likely to suddenly become a pretty high research priority, along with finding a version of VAMP without these side effects.

Even with the current set of conditions, though, it's not clear that VAMP is unacceptable. There are lots of drugs we can't afford to give to everyone, but that doesn't stop us from manufacturing them. Of course, VAMP is slightly different in two respects. First, you voluntarily acquire the condition but then we have to treat the side effects, but it seems to me that you still stand in the same relationship to the poor schlubs who can't afford the treatment. Second, while the side effects are unpleasant, being treated with VAMP arguably puts you in a superior position to others, rather than an inferior position, as with, say, HIV.

Of course, VAMP doesn't exist, but it's a useful way to think about vampires, or as they prefer to be known, vampiric-Americans. Vampires basically have a disease with some positive side effects (long life, strength, fast healing), and some negative ones (sun sensitivity, garlic allergy, etc.) And of course, the need for blood, but as we saw with VAMP, that's just a matter of a missing market for blood. If we had some cool blood mass production technique, then vampirism would just become another treatable condition. Without it, vampires are reduced to uh... freelance blood collection. With it, people would be lining up to get bitten.