Ezekial Emanuel, brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual, is one of the principle architects of Obamacare and one of its most rabid, determined and deceptive defenders. Recently in The Atlantic, he wrote an article explaining that he wants to die at 75.
I am sure of my position. Doubtless, death is a loss. It deprives us of experiences and milestones, of time spent with our spouse and children. In short, it deprives us of all the things we value.
But 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.
Emanuel further argues that dying younger is better because as we age, we just aren’t much good anymore:
American immortals operate on the assumption that they will be precisely such outliers. But the fact is that by 75, creativity, originality, and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us. Einstein famously said, “A person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so.” He was extreme in his assessment. And wrong. Dean Keith Simonton, at the University of California at Davis, a luminary among researchers on age and creativity, synthesized numerous studies to demonstrate a typical age-creativity curve: creativity rises rapidly as a career commences, peaks about 20 years into the career, at about age 40 or 45, and then enters a slow, age-related decline. There are some, but not huge, variations among disciplines. Currently, the average age at which Nobel Prize–winning physicists make their discovery—not get the prize—is 48. Theoretical chemists and physicists make their major contribution slightly earlier than empirical researchers do. Similarly, poets tend to peak earlier than novelists do. Simonton’s own study of classical composers shows that the typical composer writes his first major work at age 26, peaks at about age 40 with both his best work and maximum output, and then declines, writing his last significant musical composition at 52. (All the composers studied were male.)
If we live too long by Emanual’s calculation, we’re such a bore and a burden:
But here, too, living as long as possible has drawbacks we often won’t admit to ourselves. I will leave aside the very real and oppressive financial and caregiving burdens that many, if not most, adults in the so-called sandwich generation are now experiencing, caught between the care of children and parents. Our living too long places real emotional weights on our progeny.
And now we get to the statist thrust underlying Emanual’s article:
Once I have lived to 75, my approach to my health care will completely change. I won’t actively end my life. But I won’t try to prolong it, either. Today, when the doctor recommends a test or treatment, especially one that will extend our lives, it becomes incumbent upon us to give a good reason why we don’t want it. The momentum of medicine and family means we will almost invariably get it.
My attitude flips this default on its head. I take guidance from what Sir William Osler wrote in his classic turn-of-the-century medical textbook, The Principles and Practice of Medicine: “Pneumonia may well be called the friend of the aged. Taken off by it in an acute, short, not often painful illness, the old man escapes those ‘cold gradations of decay’ so distressing to himself and to his friends.
My Osler-inspired philosophy is this: At 75 and beyond, I will need a good reason to even visit the doctor and take any medical test or treatment, no matter how routine and painless. And that good reason is not ‘It will prolong your life.’ I will stop getting any regular preventive tests, screenings, or interventions. I will accept only palliative—not curative—treatments if I am suffering pain or other disability.
And what would Emanual do–ostensibly only regarding himself–to live this conviction?
This means colonoscopies and other cancer-screening tests are out—and before 75. If I were diagnosed with cancer now, at 57, I would probably be treated, unless the prognosis was very poor. But 65 will be my last colonoscopy. No screening for prostate cancer at any age. (When a urologist gave me a PSA test even after I said I wasn’t interested and called me with the results, I hung up before he could tell me. He ordered the test for himself, I told him, not for me.) After 75, if I develop cancer, I will refuse treatment. Similarly, no cardiac stress test. No pacemaker and certainly no implantable defibrillator. No heart-valve replacement or bypass surgery. If I develop emphysema or some similar disease that involves frequent exacerbations that would, normally, land me in the hospital, I will accept treatment to ameliorate the discomfort caused by the feeling of suffocation, but will refuse to be hauled off.
What about simple stuff? Flu shots are out. Certainly if there were to be a flu pandemic, a younger person who has yet to live a complete life ought to get the vaccine or any antiviral drugs. A big challenge is antibiotics for pneumonia or skin and urinary infections. Antibiotics are cheap and largely effective in curing infections. It is really hard for us to say no. Indeed, even people who are sure they don’t want life-extending treatments find it hard to refuse antibiotics. But, as Osler reminds us, unlike the decays associated with chronic conditions, death from these infections is quick and relatively painless. So, no to antibiotics.
And it is here, gentle readers, that all of us, regardless of age, should experience an involuntary shiver. As much as Emanual claims not to think his views necessary for us all, we must remember that he is one of a leftist elite that have imposed Obamacare on the nation, and that vociferously defend it. Emanual believes he and those that share his worldview knows better than all of us. He is one that has denied the existence of an Obamacare death panel, yet it exists but has not yet, like so much of Obamacare, been fully implemented in the name of saving Democrat backsides in Congress.
Would people like Emanual wish to impose a mandatory death age–or its functional equivalent–on Americans? Of course he would. It’s the next logical step of Obamacare, and Obamacare, in mandating so-called “best practices,” takes great strides toward that step. After all, health care resources are finite. How can we “waste” them on the old and infirm? What’s the point of treating a 75 year old that they might live another five years when their betters know the quality of their life wouldn’t be up to their exalted standards?
Emanuel makes no new arguments. He resurrects and exercises ancient demons. Sweep aside the old, pave the way for the vital, brilliant and ethically upright who alone can lead others into that great, shining Socialist future.
I have considered the issues Emanual raises. Mrs. Manor and I watched her brother, comatose, his brain irreparably damaged and atrophied, maintained on life support long past the time of hope for any recovery, and we have agreed that in such cases, we will allow each other to go to the Lord as quietly and quickly as possible.
Emanual speaks of stroke. I suffered a stroke at the age of 59 in February of 2013 and was fortunate indeed. I recovered completely as some do not, and with the aid of a relatively few medications, have a good chance of living a more than average lifespan unencumbered by debilitating illness, though as I write this, I’m dealing with a recurring sinus infection (poor me!). I do all I did before the stroke, and arguably contribute to society.
I pray, as do we all, for a long life, a life with faculties significantly undiminished that I may continue to contribute, to do God’s work, but when I am called home, I’m ready and anxious for the journey. However, when I experience another annoying, recurring sinus infection, I’d be a fool to allow myself to die for want of a $10.00 prescription for an antibiotic, yet Emanual would surely see that as “progress,” a just and sustainable outcome for the betterment of a socially just, utopian society.
What I do not want, what none of us dare allow, is for people like Emanual to make such decisions for us. I’m sure he would demur, claiming he would never make such a decision for others. Read his Atlantic article and see if any rational being could imagine that Emanuel would not impose his preferences on all–for our own good, of course. We simply aren’t superior, evolved beings like Emanual, so we cling to our pathetic, declining, useless lives.
These are the people, gentle readers, we have elected to represent our interests and the interests of our nation. And Hillary Clinton, she who tried to implement Obamacare before its time, wants to rule for our own good. God help us.
UPDATE: My favorite Bookworm has a run at Emanual too. Definitely worth your time.