If the gov­ern­ment is pay­ing the bill, it’s best to die young

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel sug­gests life is not worth liv­ing after 75

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Tammy Bruce

Much is be­ing made of Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel’s es­say in The At­lantic, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” where he ar­gues that dy­ing at 75 would be best for ev­ery­one. He’s en­ti­tled to his opin­ion, of course, but what makes this es­pe­cially con­cern­ing is his role as an ar­chi­tect of the so-called “Af­ford­able Care Act” (Oba­macare), his po­si­tion as di­rec­tor of the Clin­i­cal Bioethics Depart­ment at the U.S. Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health and his close re­la­tion­ship with Pres­i­dent Obama as an ad­viser on health is­sues.

When you’re even one of those things, let alone all three, noth­ing you say or write in pub­lic on the is­sue you’re charged with is per­sonal.

The en­su­ing de­bate has un­der­stand­ably cen­tered on the craven no­tion that in­di­vid­u­als over the age of 75 are some­how not as vi­able or wor­thy as those who are younger. In fact, Dr. Emanuel makes that point in his es­say: “We are no longer re­mem­bered as vi­brant and en­gaged, but as fee­ble, in­ef­fec­tual, even pa­thetic.”

There are in­nu­mer­able ex­am­ples, of course, of older in­di­vid­u­als, well-known and the undis­cov­ered, who live full and im­pact­ful lives well into their 90s and even 100s. Pres­i­dent Rea­gan’s Bran­den­burg speech (“Tear down this wall.”) was de­liv­ered when he was 76. A men­tor of mine, the au­thor Ray Brad­bury, wrote ev­ery day through his 80s, un­til his death at 91.

Ki­mani Maruge of Kenya is the old­est per­son to at­tend pri­mary school, en­rolling in the 1st grade at 84. A 96-yearold, Mohr Keet, is the world’s old­est bungee jumper. And at 77 years old, Mi­noru Saito, is the old­est to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the globe. Just this month, 91-year-old Henry Kissinger, Nobel Peace Prize win­ner and for­mer sec­re­tary of state, just re­leased his 17th ma­jor work, “World Or­der.”

Fo­cus­ing on this as­pect of vi­tal­ity at ev­ery age, while com­pelling, is a mis­take. While pre­sented by Dr. Emanuel as his per­sonal in­ten­tion to die at 75, make no mis­take, this is a mes­sage for all Americans. His goal is to plant the seed that lim­it­ing our life­times should be a se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion in it­self, and weaved into our own life de­ci­sions.

Why? Be­cause be­ing older is an ex­pen­sive propo­si­tion, es­pe­cially if the gov­ern­ment is pay­ing the bill, ei­ther through the now raided and empty So­cial Se­cu­rity fund or through Oba­macare, the pre­cur­sor to their sin­gle-payer health care dream.

In the con­text of Oba­macare, this is the be­gin­ning of a con­di­tion­ing of older Americans and their fam­i­lies to ac­cept the no­tion that if you have a chronic dis­ease or an in­jury or weak­ness that’s ex­pen­sive to treat, and you’re 75 or older, per­haps the less-ex­pen­sive hospice is the bet­ter op­tion.

Sup­port­ers of Oba­macare strike back at the idea that Dr. Emanuel would ap­prove of “death pan­els” or even ra­tioning gen­eral health care. His sup­port­ers point to the fact that he has writ­ten a great deal about be­ing against eu­thana­sia, which is the di­rect in­volve­ment of doc­tors or a med­i­cal sys­tem in caus­ing a pa­tient’s death.

Per­haps Dr. Emanuel ex­pects that po­si­tion to cloud the truth of what he sug­gests now, which is still the fa­cil­i­tat­ing of a pa­tient’s death with­out a physi­cian or med­i­cal pro­fes­sional act­ing in a proac­tive way. In­stead, lim­it­ing or denying cer­tain health care to pa­tients, promis­ing “com­fort” as one dies, pro­tects the sys­tem from the re­pug­nance of ac­tive “eu­thana­sia.”

His dance around the dif­fer­ence? “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,” he de­clares in the es­say.

Wel­come to Oba­macare and sin­gle-payer. Just change the per­sonal pro­nouns and you’ve got the tem­plate for “endof-life” coun­sel­ing, with the pa­tient pro­vid­ing their own per­sonal death panel.

Many older Americans, of course, re­ject the no­tion that dy­ing is their duty. Dr. Emanuel’s mes­sage, there­fore, is also for fam­ily care­tak­ers, those who also need to be con­vinced that it’s best for Mom to not get that pace­maker be­cause, after all, she’s 75 al­ready, and isn’t that long enough?

In his ar­ti­cle, and as a mes­sage to ev­ery­one in a fam­ily with some­one 75 or older, Dr. Emanuel in­sists health care for the older is a waste of pre­cious health care re­sources. Part of his com­mit­ment to some larger no­tion (read sin­gle-payer, gov­ern­ment-de­liv­ered health care) is a per­sonal re­fusal of med­i­cal care. For him, he says, no can­cer treat­ment after 75, no flu shots, no colono­scopies (start­ing at 65), no prostate-can­cer screen­ing, no pace­maker and no an­tibi­otics, be­cause, he as­sures us, “death from … in­fec­tions is quick and rel­a­tively pain­less.”

Ap­par­ently, we are sup­posed to be­lieve that Dr. Emanuel de­cided his per­sonal point of view on life and death has noth­ing to do with ev­ery­one else, and is sim­ply be some­thing the Amer­i­can peo­ple needed to know. That’s how much con­tempt the left has for your grasp of re­al­ity.

Con­sid­er­ing his po­si­tion and in­flu­ence at the fed­eral level, it strains credulity to sug­gest that this at­ti­tude is not at­tached to the con­tin­u­a­tion of his work for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, and its de­sired out­come.

This ‘Die on Sched­ule’ men­tal­ity, of course, is an ob­scen­ity meant only for the Lit­tle Peo­ple. Those plan­ning to sweep you off to that quiet good night will no doubt ex­empt them­selves. Again. Tammy Bruce is a ra­dio talk-show host, au­thor and Fox News contributor.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY ALEXAN­DER HUNTER/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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