by Will Lloyd
Wednesday, 11
November 2020
Spotted
08:30

Joe Biden’s coronavirus adviser: life should end at 75

Is the President-elect two years past his sell-by date?
by Will Lloyd
Dr Ezekiel J. Emanuel, 63 and counting

Six years ago, a distinguished American oncologist published an essay in The Atlantic. In ‘Why I Hope to Die at 75’ Dr Ezekiel J. Emanuel argued that for most people “creativity, originality and productivity are pretty much gone” by 75.

Accordingly, society as a whole would be improved if nature took “its course swiftly and promptly”. Medicine has extended life spans, but it has done little to make life worth living in old age, Emanuel argued at the time:

Here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.
- Dr Ezekiel J. Emanuel

On Monday, Dr Emanuel was one of 10 advisory board members appointed to Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force. This is potentially awkward for Biden — not least because at 77 he is a few months beyond the age Dr Emanuel believes we cease to be much use to anyone. Previously, Emanuel was a special advisor in the Obama White House, and prominent in shaping the policy for Obamacare between 2009-11. The battle over that legislation included claims by Sarah Palin that federal health insurance would lead to “death panels” — bodies of bureaucrats who would decide who was worthy of medical attention, and who would be left without it.

This was a fantasy, of course. Emanuel does not support assisted suicide either, though it’s legal in nine US jurisdictions, and has been in Oregon since 1997. Still, now that he is going to be involved in directing healthcare policy that seeks to protect millions of elderly from Covid-19, Emanuel’s appointment looks a bit like a political own-goal. Donald Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted a screenshot of the piece, as did influential Arkansas senator Tom Cotton. If you search for “death panel” on Twitter you’ll see that the term is back in vogue.

Perhaps more than any other Western nation, in the United States the pandemic has become a culture war battleground. Arguments about masks and lockdowns have been as polarised as conflicts over abortions and gun laws, splitting right down party lines. There has been a 17 point drop since 2019 in the number of Americans who believe that vaccines are good for their health, and that of their families.

During the campaign, Biden repeatedly told Americans to prepare for a “very dark winter”. The appointment of Dr Emanuel probably isn’t the best way to start it.

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Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
1 year ago

I don’t see the controversy at all. The quality of life for most people after becoming 75 decreases a lot. The average age of death in the west is around 80 or so. It’s a question of managing expectations. People seem to believe that death is something unnatural while in fact it is exactly the other way around. That is what makes this whole corona-crisis an absurdity because the average age of death is more or less the same as the average age of corona-death.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
1 year ago

while in fact it is exactly the other way around

So *life* is unnatural? Huge if true, although this rock did go for 2 billion years or so without it, and the moon is keeping that fine tradition up.

David Simpson
David Simpson
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

no – not dying is unnatural. doh

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
1 year ago
Reply to  David Simpson

But not everyone dying at a certain age. Every living thing varies in its ability to survive, grow and die.

pau.dobro
pau.dobro
1 year ago

Agree, but the controversy here is rather the inconsistence. The very same person who denies the quality of living beyond 75, is/may be in favour of suspending our lives for the sake of protecting the most vulnerable, who happen to be 75+ in majority.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

I don’t see the controversy at all.
So it’s okay, in your view, for someone in a policy position to muse about what is an “appropriate” life span, and also okay for the media to treat his words as normal discourse? Wow; how nice to know that our betters now have public sanction to essentially kill us when reaching the age of reduced utility.

Quality of life may well decrease as one ages, but it’s not the state’s role to determine who lives and who dies. At least not in societies that like to talk about how free they are.

David Simpson
David Simpson
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

not “strive, officiously, to keep alive” is all. no-one’s suggesting exterminating people over 75

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago
Reply to  David Simpson

That’s quite the interpretation of what Emanuel said. If he wishes to die at 75, then he can make that happen. And somehow, he ignores the irony this piece highlights – that the guy he’s advising is already past the expiration date. If you’re a burden to society at 75+, you have no business trying to run a country.

David Simpson
David Simpson
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

but presumably we still allow Biden the right to decide for himself whether his life’s still worth living or not. Personally, I’m with Dr Emmanuel – if I have the moral courage to recognise that my life is really no longer worth living, for my or any one else’s sake, I’d like to have the ability to end it – quickly, painlessly, cheaply, and legally.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago
Reply to  David Simpson

Will we? Emanuel’s statement reads like an absolute without room for what is allowed or not.

If you make such a choice of your own volition, then it is your choice and there will be no argument from me. But his statement and how it is treated in the press portends of something more sinister than individuals making voluntary decisions.

edward.deadlock
edward.deadlock
1 year ago
Reply to  David Simpson

Just shows how little you have learnt in your brief time on the planet. It is not a moral decision, it’s palin cowardice. Your comments betray your ignorance of the christian culture in which you live.

Kelly Mitchell
Kelly Mitchell
1 year ago

Uh, he wants somebody who’s abilities have seriously declined by his own standards to hold the most powerful office in the world?

David Simpson
David Simpson
1 year ago

less actually. corona virus is actually killing people off after their normal sell by date, at least in the UK

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
1 year ago
Reply to  David Simpson

globally SARS-Cov-2 mortality”particularly here in the US”is on the order of 80 to 90 percent those over 60.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
1 year ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

In the U.K. 80 plus seems to be age mentioned, not 60. Maybe because in the USA many people do not have lifelong healthcare ?

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
1 year ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

it is an aggregate of ages 60 and up…as is the UK

David Simpson
David Simpson
1 year ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

i.e. 80-90% of those who die from SARS-Cov-2 are aged over 60 years. But the average age of death from Covid is (in the UK at least, but I suspect also in the USA) 82. I believe this is higher than the average age of death from all causes in the UK.

Jordan Flower
Jordan Flower
1 year ago

Emanuel’s argument is based on some subjective redefining on what it means to be alive. He thinks reaching the point where caretaking is necessary, it is somehow a less valued form of life.

What a completely narcissistic and selfish way to see the world. For a lot of people, they find purpose and meaning in taking care of the vulnerable. In a lot of ways, this is the whole point of a family structure to begin with. We protect the vulnerable on their “way into life”, then we raise them, invest into their lives, they become adults and hopefully amass some wealth, and then they turn around and protect their vulnerable parents on their “way out”.

But to Emanuel, any level of caretaking is just a burden, and apparently a shot to his fragile ego. And he would be more than happy to rob his own family the joy that comes with taking care of our old as they wind down their life.

I get it man, you want to go out on your own terms. We all do. No one wants to be found dead with their pants down after having a heart attack at 84 while sitting on the toilet.

But this is just pure cowardly narcissism, punctuated by the fact that he wants to have his own memorial while he’s still alive.

Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago
Reply to  Jordan Flower

Stephen Hawking would agree!

David J
David J
1 year ago

I read his piece in The Atlantic, but wonder why 75 is his specific preference, particularly as forecasting is so inexact.
And indeed, I doubt he will say the same when he reaches his target age, more likely adding another dozen years to his proposed end-time.
As for quality of life, or productivity, or any other measurement, they all differ between every one of us, so making his entire thesis invalid, except for his own, personal opinion.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
1 year ago
Reply to  David J

the preference is his alone

ck.harding
ck.harding
1 year ago

Ridiculous overgeneralisation and a deprecation of the value of our elder citizens. A relative of mine is about to receive a PhD at nearly 90. Many live full, happy and useful lives well into their 80s and 90s, sometimes beyond! I give thanks for the wonderful older people I have in my life.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
1 year ago
Reply to  ck.harding

what is the utility of a newly minted 90 year old PhD?

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
1 year ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

The interest and pleasure of the achievement. Not all qualifications must lead to a bigger salary.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
1 year ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

another example of first world squandering resources to elevate the individual…the interest and pleasure of the achievement of education is its own reward requiring no credentialing at any age.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
1 year ago

There’s no evidence that Dr Emanuel was advocating anything other than a careful consideration of the effects of extending life by medical intervention. We have the technology to keep very ill people alive sometimes for years but if the patients have a very poor quality of life and no expectation of improvement we should not be afraid of asking them if they want to carry on.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
1 year ago

As the son of a Irgun (IZL) terrorist, Dr Emanuel has to be spot on?

Alison Houston
Alison Houston
1 year ago

The left have always believed in Eugenics of one sort or another, they believe in evolution and the survival of the fittest, they do not believe in the teaching of Christ which would temper their enthusiasm for murdering unborn humans, killing elderly ones, giving a financial value to life and deciding who should live and die based on it. They believe that a human body should belong to the state, after death, they believe homosexuals must not be allowed to have heterosexual sex incase they bring forth children. Their atheistic, ‘liberalism’ always results in a cruel contradiction of the values they claim to have.

So don’t be surprised that this kind of thinking happens in creepy places like Bidenworld. After all, under our supposedly Tory govt. we have been forced to accept ideas like ‘presumed consent’ for our organs being used after death, there has been the care home covid scandal where survival of the fittest has been the driving force behind government policy in bumping off the elderly in their tens of thousands, saving the NHS for fitter patients, putting DNR notices on those patients with even mild disabilities. Allowing abortion to full term under Covid rules in N.I. Then there is the indoctrination of children on matters T and LGBQ telling them these things are fixed in stone and if you think you are a member of the opposite sex you had better sterilise yourself through hormone treatment at the earliest opportunity, because lord knows we don’t want weirdos like you breeding.

jonathan carter-meggs
jonathan carter-meggs
1 year ago

Who would you get to run a multinational corporation and drive the business forwards whilst looking after the shareholders interests – not a 77 year old man, even if your strategic plan only lasted for 4 years. Biden is a “not Trump” candidate who will find it hard to keep up with the politics of today. Its only because the system only allows for a “boxing match” between multi-millionaires to determine the President that two such ridiculous people got 140million votes between them (about 50% of the adult population).

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
1 year ago

and then there is this from the World Economic Forum back in 2008 painting a bullseye on the backs of old folks whose pensions and healthcare would drag economies of developed western nations down by 2030…and oh by the way the World Economic Forum removed “The Future of Pensions and Healthcare in a Rapidly Ageing World: Scenarios to 2030” from its server in March of this year.

the link will take you to World Economic Forum’s site but try to download pdf of study and you get this; “Apologies – this section of our website is currently unavailable”

The Future of Pensions and Healthcare in a Rapidly Ageing World
Scenarios to 2030

https://www.weforum.org/rep

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago

As with many, do as I say not as I do. Principles elude both Emanuel and Biden. They aspire to popularity. Oncologists in particular see a lot of suffering from the poisons needed to cure or kill the various cancers. I’m sure that is his influence and callowness.

Karl Schuldes
Karl Schuldes
1 year ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Callow? Perhaps you meant callous.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
1 year ago
Reply to  Karl Schuldes

“Lack of maturity” is meaningful and more grammatical in that sentence

Karl Schuldes
Karl Schuldes
1 year ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

Grammatically they’re the same. The writer is 66.

Dana Eyre
Dana Eyre
1 year ago

Um, has anyone noticed that his article title was “Why I hope to die at 75” and not “all of you should die at 75!”? It was an exploration of the issues of care and quality of life, and a reflection on how we think about those issues. It wasn’t policy advocacy.

And, has anyone noticed that “death panels” (“crisis standards of care” in Arizona and elsewhere) under GOP governors because they and the Trump administration failed to take the pandemic seriously? Seriously, the party that invented the term as an attack on increasing access to health care for all actually IMPLEMENTED DEATH PANELS in several states it runs because of bad policy. https://kvoa.com/news/2020/

Roland Ayers
Roland Ayers
1 year ago

Ezekiel J. Emanuel might benefit from looking beyond his own borders, at the blue zone countries that have such high life expectancies. His analysis might then be a little less fatalistic.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
1 year ago

Dr. Emanuel was merely pointing to what the World Economic Forum’s paper from their 2008 get together was arguing…The Future of Pensions and Healthcare in a Rapidly Ageing World: Scenarios to 2030.

Our rapidly aging populations’ pensions and healthcare are drags on the global economy.

It is flipping the script of “A Modest Proposal For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick”.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
1 year ago

I once said to my father that I’d hate to live to be a 100 to which he replied simply: “You wont say that when you are 99 and a 1/2!”

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
1 year ago

Appointing this man was a massive own-goal by Biden – but, as one of the people who has almost certainly begun to display the very cognitive decline Emanuel speaks of, Biden is probably not actually responsible for this crass decision.

The central foolishness of Emanuel’s posture is that it uses age, not capacity, to make this judgement. It is a lightweight, dim judgement anyway, as he would know if he had read around a little more. He might start with Anthony Trollope’s The Fixed Period.

James Moss
James Moss
1 year ago

Anyone would be an improvement on Scott Atlas.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago
Reply to  James Moss

to include someone essentially advocating euthanasia? This says more about you than anyone else.

Dorothy Slater
Dorothy Slater
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

i live in Oregon where, after a medical diagnosis of a terminal disease with death expected of the disease within 6 months, we do allow the patient and doctor to administer drugs which hasten death. . As an 83 year old, I, and many of the Oregonians who voted for the death with dignity bill, are grateful for the choice. Perhaps you have never sat at the bedside of a person wracked with pain with no hope of healing but only more pain.

We do not consider this euthanasia and if you do, you can live out your life until the natural end. However, I believe you have misread Dr. Emanuel. He specifically states that he does not believe in what he calls doctor assisted suicide.

James Moss
James Moss
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

I hope it says more about Scott Atlas.