Contra Ezekiel Emanuel, age is no absolute barometer for human vitality and dignity.
Normally, no one would care that in a recent Atlantic essay — “Why I Hope to Die at 75” — 57-year-old Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel argued that living to be 75 years old was long enough for anyone. After 75, Emanuel suggests, “We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.”
But Emanuel is no garden-variety crackpot. Nor is he a wannabe science-fiction writer dreaming of a centrally planned planet of robust youthful humanoids. Unfortunately, he was one of the chief architects of the troubled Affordable Care Act and a key medical advisor to the Obama administration.
The ACA’s conservative critics have long knocked Obamacare as a first step toward medical rationing. Read Emanuel’s diatribe against living too long, and suddenly Sarah Palin’s attack on Obamacare’s “death panels” does not seem so far-fetched.
Emanuel’s main point is that those who live beyond 75 inordinately gobble up collective health resources — like flu shots. Emanuel asserts that at age 75 and beyond, he will decline nearly all medical tests and treatments. (“What about simple stuff? Flu shots are out.”) He claims he won’t take antibiotics either.
“I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive,” Emanuel writes. “For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop.”
Emanuel takes the banal position that aging is more costly than youth, and then he takes it to a pathetic extreme, revealing his ignorance of both history and ethics. And while he is mostly talking about his own plans, his past influence and his present desire to disseminate his views make it clear that he would like Americans to follow his advice that it would be wise for them to be dead at 75.
Yet our present lives would be poorer had we taken away history’s 75-year-olds. The great Athenian playwright Sophocles (who wrote until his death in his 90s) would never have crafted some of Greece’s greatest tragedies. The Founding Fathers would not have had the sober wisdom of Benjamin Franklin in his later years. The late Jacques Barzun, the greatest contemporary student of Western values and history, published his masterpiece, From Dawn to Decadence, when he was 93. Henry Kissinger, at 91, just published a magnum opus, World Order.
Some of the most gripping volumes about World War II would never been written by a supposedly too old Winston Churchill. Had Ronald Reagan refused medical care and hoped to die at 75, the world would never have heard at Berlin, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Had a more youthful Walter Mondale been elected in 1984 instead, would he have dared say that?
Hoping that we all die at 75 is about as inane as barring those under 50 from assuming positions of influence without commensurate experience. After all, Adolf Hitler came to power at 43. A robust Josef Stalin at 50 began collectivization of Russian farmland, which eventually killed millions of Russians. When an untried 31-year old Kaiser Wilhelm II dismissed the sober and experienced chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who was 75 at the time, the German Empire took a path that would lead to World War I.
Does anyone believe that an inexperienced but youthful Barack Obama is a better president because he did not wait to run until he was 60, when he might have had over a decade more of political savvy?
Age is no absolute barometer. We all know those who at 75 are far more vigorous than others who are couch potatoes at 40. If Emanuel’s point is that living beyond 75 is unwise given the odds that society will reap less achievement per resources invested, then that frightening anti-humanist argument can be extended to almost any category.
Should we do away with health care for those with chronic debilitating diseases on the theory that society inordinately gives them too much time and capital and gets very little in return? Events of the twentieth century should warn us about where such government decision-making on health has led.
Why incarcerate prisoners for life sentences? They will likely produce little behind bars. Take values, morality, and collective debt for past services out of the equation, and we could just as easily choose not to treat severely wounded veterans, given that they are unlikely to return to the battlefield.
How exactly does Emanuel judge achievement? By elite measures of where you went to school, who you know, and the influence you peddle?
Many might suggest that a naive and clueless Emanuel in his early fiftiebbs did the nation a lot of damage by dreaming up a lousy, big-government health-care scheme. Under Obamacare, millions lost their doctors and existing health care. They have paid more for deductibles and premiums, as the nation increased its debt to only marginally cover more of the uninsured.
Most Americans can cite a grandparent’s wise advice and aggregate experience as changing their lives for the better. I was blessed that three of my grandparents lived well beyond 75 and taught me everything from riding a horse and farming to accepting setbacks with calm and dignity.
In contrast, the greatest tragedy in my life was the far too early death of my mother at 67 — at precisely the point when our family most needed her omnipresence, caring, and sage counsel.
Who knows — had Dr. Emanuel been asked to help draft an Affordable Care Act in his mid-70s, we might not have had to collectively suffer from his youthful inexperience.
© 2014 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
31 thoughts on “Should We Hope to Die at 75?”
I am sure that he will, unfortunately, change his mind within 18 years, though I highly recommend it to all supporters of Obamacare.
Thank you Victor, the value of human life does not rely upon our economic contributions or our physical vitality but upon the value that has been placed upon us by our creator who gave us not only rights but intrinsic worth by virtue of being created in His image and ultimately by being worth saving by the efforts and sacrifice of our Creator himself. A Society will never rise above the image and example of its deities. I am thankful that in our republic our founders firmly understood that the value of the individual is firmly grounded in the existence and actions of the Creator. May our nation, neighbors and world be awakened by the horrific screams of the consequences being forced upon us of the liberal theology being promoted by the leaders of our secular institutions of education and sadly by the leaders of the Democratic Party and many in the elite Republican Leadership. It is time to take a new look at the foundations of our republic and fight to rebuild those foundations in our businesses, schools, churches, and families.
From the O’Care brother of the Godfather to our ears. Maybe we can tailor the mandatory checkout age based on individual qualities/worth or, who knows, even a popular up-or-down vote like a Roman sport. 75 could be too high for some. For example, 58 seems appropriate for Ezekiel Emanuel.
Actually I believe the Atlantic had a dyslexic typist, he did mean 57.
That’s the first thing I thought of too. Of course they have to occasionally get rid of people at 56 and 58 just to give it the patina of reality. “This Perfect Day”.
It’s usually the progressive elites who come up with this garbage about how to best manage collected resources. What’s happened to this Country where a person could be free to pursue their life and desires without having to be interfered with by someone like the emanuels, bloombergs, rockefellers, roosevelts, gores, and on and on and on. Where the hell is a GOLDWATER when you need someone to stand up and be counted!
In remembering Goldwater…
I only remember him as a senile old man who the media loved to quote in his old age because he had gone over to the dark side. Or…maybe he was always on the dark side but hid it well, like many of our current RINOs.
The reference to Goldwater was over your head obviously. In ’64 I was a one year old but understood as I got older and heard people I listened to and respected talk about Goldwater as a man who for the most part speak clearly and frankly about liberal excess and hypocrisy. That’s the Goldwater I referenced not when he had reached the end of his life and was affected by the ravages of old age both mental and physiologically.
The progressive age with its cemented belief in elitism, eugenics, and collectivism with terror and slaughter will return. The only thing that has truly showed its age, no matter who it is applied to, is the fossilized government entitlements to which the progressive age brought about. the Affordable RationCare is the epitome of this.
It’s amazing to me how the philosophies of the hated Nazis, which the allies spent so much money & blood on destroying are now being touted as the answer to the ills of society. That such is being advocated by a dude such as ‘Zeke’ Emanuel is downright shocking…and disturbing…First it’s age 75…then the slippery slope leads us to what…50, 40, 35…21??? Evidently Pete Townshend (The Who) didn’t get HIS wish, nor do i think he WANTS to die before he gets oldER…Emanuel is a retarded windbang…and a dangerous one at that!!!
Thank you Mr. Hanson for pointing out the stupidity in ultra-liberal thinking! It amazes me that a puny human somehow has the godly wisdom, to tell other puny humans how to live, this has to be the height of arrogance mixed in with pride and a whole lot of darkness in between.
I have come to believe after being exposed to such ultra-liberal thinking from time to time, is that the only logical explanation to this type of unbalance judgment is due to an important biblical principle as recorded in the book of Romans 1:18 and following. In these verses we learned that people who have willfully rejected God outright eventually go down a mental path where they become incapable of developing sound judgment in their thinking. Plainly speaking, God refers to them as people who have reprobate minds, meaning their minds are seared with a hot iron and are devoid of judgment! It appears Mr. Emanuel and many of his ultra-liberal friends are a text book example of this important biblical insight.
Perhaps we should ask Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg her opinion?
Hmm, could it be that Zeke and his cohorts are aiming at Conservatives/Libertarians/Independents in the median 68+ year old demo of FNC viewers? [NYT 7/22/13 provides the age/cable/network data
Emanuel is distracting us. By the Governments own Congressional Budget Office and other official sources Obamacare failed fundamentally before it started—virtue of a defective structure and design. It’s unable to meet the 2 main stated aims as it costs more and provides less than our currently strained but beneficial healthcare situation. The terrible truth is that it leaves 30 to 50 million Americans still uninsured while adding at least $2 Trillion more to American Health Care spending as it gets implemented. It’s sponsors could not stomach these facts, and plowed ahead with this foredoomed operation, so it seems fair to conclude Emanuel and associates demonstrated mental, moral and judgement deficiencies are to blame. Still, forgiving like most Americans, I favor letting him live out his days and only ask he do the rest of us the same courtesy.
My recommendation for qualifying Americans to receive needed medical attention is that merit in character, responsibility, even means, should determine eligibility for services, NOT youth OR vitality. Young, worthless and indigent citizens should be denied drug rehab, STD treatment, smoking counsel, bipolar meds, or any self-induced disorder treatment, Similarly, productive and contributive seniors should be vetted for life-extending heroics, and worthiness the measure of treatment. Homeless, criminal, and irresponsible seniors would be relegated to the same scrapheap as scummy youths, to preserve the integrity of American culture. Let means-testing prevail!
Consider Mr. Hanson’s examples of productive ancients, and add Bob Hope, George Burns, Al Einstein, and Bill Graham, from other orbits of influence to benefit quality of life.
P.S. I’m 78, with plenty to say in city Senior advisory committee, design consulting role to consumer optics companies, emergency preparedness coordination in nieghborhood, and regular contributions published in county monthly newspaper. Kill me off? Come and claim my defensive weapons first, if you can.
It will be interesting if Emanuel sticks to his plan once he turns 70. By his assertion I would only have eight years left to see my two year old grandson turn ten! This guy is a crack pot of the first order! God help us all!
I liked the article, although I thought the focus on a particular age was silly. It is true that people decline, often sharply, in old age, use a disproportionate amount of health care service particularly in the last yeay, and often limp along with very poor quality of life simply because they can. If Emanuel had modified his article to instead use significant decline in QoL as his metric rather than the arbitrary seventy five years of age, I’m in complete agreement.
The biggest concern, of course, is if this thinking is applied unilaterally to everyone regardless of personal choice. That is not acceptable. People at 75 (or whenever) should have the right to choose whatever healthcare they can afford to extend their life as long and uncomfortably as they desire.
This Jewish politico is astounding in his lack of heart and reverence for hisown history. Sounds like the seeds of the Holocaust all over again, when the Nazis began with sorting out who was fit to live and who wasn’t: a short slippery slope to condemning his relatives to the gas chambers . Hard to believe and yet totally believable that this branch of the Emmauels should herald its own demise beginning with me. At 86 I’m fit and sassy and consider myself dignified, coherent and viable as a human being. The likes of this demented windbag should have his inflated sense of self pricked with the tip of his own tragic history.
This was a very good piece that should be picked up and run nationally, side by side w/ Emanuel’s. Thanks for the time, though and personal experience you put in the article. sk
I just got my Social Security info on the elusive gov’t age for people to retire, which mine is currently 66. They suggest holding out until 70. They originally said I could retire at 55.
I worked from 16 years old until I was 40 when we decided I would stay at home for our 5 year old. That’s a lot of years. My last full-time job was in 1984 as an Amin. Asst. to a dept. chair at a state university. I made $14,000. My estimated per month Soc. Sec. income is estimated at less than $900 PER MONTH, should I retire at 66. They are telling me that that is 40% of what I will need to live comfortably. They tell me to rely on savings, and retirement investments, etc. LOL
They have been telling me that I need more points, which means get a job, so I can collect more Social Security.
With all the young people needing jobs, who do you think would hire a 60+ year old secretary? SERIOUSLY?!
The whole premise of Soc. Security was to get older people out of the job market so the young people could work. Now older people must work as long as possible to insure that they can at least afford their property tax, water, elec., phone bills, etc.
What makes me mad is that DC has been income taxing Soc. Sec. as well, which they promised they wouldn’t. It makes me very made when I think of all the money that we send to countries who hate us
and use the money to kill our children, but my taxes are deemed “ENTITLEMENTS.”
I am NOT ENTITLED to money that I contributed to my “retirement” but there are foreigners who feel entitled to the same money and DC feels that is ok. How is that equality?
I imagine my future will be living in a box somewhere, while people on the gov’t welfare roll will be living in a house paid for by my taxes. I guess I won’t need to worry about all those bills if I live in a box.
I will go further than VHD. Where is it written that one must be “useful” to “society” in order to continue to live (or just to live)? Only in the socialistic 20th-21st centry is this an actual topic of conversation. The point must be made that even a diminished person (because of age or otherwise) should be supported as much as possible through (truly free-market) insurance policies, personal funds or voluntary contributions of relatives and friends. The problem occurs when a government dictates the conditions of medical care.
The premise of the movie Logan’s Run was formative for me in 1976.
For those who would follow this Emmanuel, I hope you find a rooftop you like, as I heard Mark Levin say. :/
Emanuel should just do himself in now and spare us the unfortunate torment of his future.
Immoderate suggestion for limiting age of humans right to live it out requires an immoderate response. Let’s quit playing “nice” to the stuff floating around. It only encourages when it might be retorted to with snap.
One more thought, Zeke – are you going to tell some Veteran who fought to make YOU free, that he can’t collect insurance and must check out at 75….tell that to Bob Dole, John McCain and Tammy Duckworth.
Boy does Zeke miss the point!
“Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. This has become so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal.”
Diet matters! Physical health and mental health are based on biology…what you put into your body matters!
Had our gov’t back in the early 70’s (remenber McGovern) not created an unsubstantiated panic about the cholesterol rich foods we were eating, Americans might be much healthier than we are today.
Check online (Dr Lustig) and the research (his book Fat Chance) showing that glucose/fructose negatively impact the organization of proteins. Why should this matter? Every cell in your body is fat and protein.
Zeke needs to be pushing the biology of nutrition and exercise. We would then need less interference from our expanding gov’t.
The title, PhD, is supposed to mean ‘philosophie doctor’, a term indicating a higher degree of education suggesting greater wisdom. Once in a while, it seems to indicate instead something on the order of ‘phiosophie dufoos’ which would apply to “Dr.” Emanuel.
I knnow that I said some pretty dumb things when I was 57. Now that I’m 70 I hope I will continue to learn new things. and I would hope the same for Dr. Emanuel although at the moment he sounds pretty foolish.
His thoughts about dying at 75 are very selfish and not at all considerate of his children’s feelings.
Based on what he has shown us of hinself I can’t give him very high markes for having much intelligence.
Dr. Emanuel is not making a rational argument, because it is unlikely that anyone would go through with a plan like this. Even if he did go through with it, it wouldn’t be fair to the people around him to have to watch a healthy person die a slow death. If he reaches 75 and wants to die, he can always just commit suicide, but trying to argue that it’s reasonable for any healthy 75 year old to stop using medical resources only makes it easier for the government to deny those resources to older people. It’s a dangerous thing to say.
I think the solution according the fascist leftists is already at hand. I just got back from the largest theme park in the world in the southern United States and there were many, many people riding around on scooters because they were too obese to walk the park. So with a huge amount of Americans overweight or obese many of them won’t make it to 65 let alone 75. So if the skinny liberals all kill themselves at 75, the rest of us should be in pretty good shape.
The term “Obamacare” is now deemed racist hate speech. The rollout has been so horrible that to associate His Magnificence with the failure of “Obamacare” is to imply that Obama in particular and Democrats in general are incompetent. Since HE was judged solely on the color of his skin, any criticism has to be racist. (Barbara Walters said that they thought of him as the new Messiah and Chris Matthews felt a tingle go up his leg at the mere sound of his voice.)
Unless you want to be labeled as a bigot, the new term is “Bushcare”.
For those who went to government schools, it’s called Sarcasm and Irony.
Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewett’s evil twin)