By Emily Rosen
Fifty-Seven year old Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is an oncologist, a bioethicist, a vice-provost of the University of Pennsylvania, an author, one of the architects of Obamacare and the brother of Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel. In the current issue of The Atlantic, he tries to make the case for “Why I Hope To Die at 75” — only 18 years hence.
Some young whippersnappers cannot conceive of how fast 18 years can fly by.
He makes the usual pitch regarding the burdensome cost to society of the care and treatment of the elderly, and then cites the lack of quality of life suffered by so many in their later years.
And so, in what seems to me to be thoroughly unconnected logic, he alighted on the random age of 75, after which he practically pinky-swears that he will not allow any kind of treatment or known cure to be administered upon his body.
HORSEWHISKERS, Zeke, I hope you got paid enough for that article to overcome the ingenuousness of your premise.
Yes, late-life lingering in conjunction with soaring costs for care, as well as the emotional toll it takes on family, is a very serious social and ethical problem, and needs to be aired openly as solutions are sought. And such a probe would have been well worth the space.
But citing a target age that suggests “you’ve had enough of life” almost sounds like it comes from the mind of a child to whom 25 seems ancient.
Oh, just wait, Zeke Emanuel, you just wait! And when you’re 75 – and perhaps diagnosed with some disease that has a high quality of life expectancy – we’ll see if you refuse treatment on the mere grounds of just being “75.”
“By the time I reach 75,” he says, “I will have lived a complete life. …I will have loved and been loved … I will have seen my grandchildren born and beginning their lives, … I will have made whatever contributions, important or not, (that) I am going to make …” and more. The man thinks he is Nostradamus.
So here it is from this lucky “horse’s mouth,” Doc. You have NO IDEA what the next 18 years hold for you. And if you are lucky enough to be relatively healthy at 75, you are darn well going to welcome your 76th birthday – and beyond, even if you have some survivable ailments that slow you down. And unless you become totally dependent on others for your care, you are very likely to endure the natural aches and pains that come with aging, the changing pace of your life and the exciting challenges of making lemonade from lemons. You will still continue to “make contributions,” and to savor the “loving and the being loved,” and if you have to take a test or two , or be subjected to some kind of magic treatment that will restore some quality of life, you will likely sign the document.
No one wants to live in a state of dependency. But to curtail what can be the best years of life after 75, in order to prevent what might not happen, comes from the corners of naivety, despite even, the medical background and experience.
Problems of aging, late stage illnesses, and the whole process of death and dying need to be addressed. But deliberately looking to curtail life at 75 “because I will have lived a complete life” is just plain foolish.
I know whereof I speak!