A Good Time to Die
Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is director of the Clinical Bioethics Department of the US National Institutes of Health, and heads the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been acknowledged as the prime mover and advocate for Obamacare. His article in The Atlantic titled, “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” should scare the hell out of most of those still shy of that number. He is not kidding.
In what he believes is a convincing and logical argument, the good doctor cites a tsunami of hard statistics, stating that after 75, the body declines precipitously, with major cost of health care occurring beyond that age. That dying before such decline begins, would not only save the government enormous sums of money, but also spare the afflicted, and their loved ones needless and prolonged pain and anxiety. Dr. Emanuel also adds that his conviction to die at 75 drives his daughters crazy. Frankly, if this is the mindset of the principal advocate of Obamacare, everybody under 75 should be driven crazy, and acknowledge that no matter one’s political stance, Sarah Palin had it right: that one day bureaucratic death panels would be established to decide matters regarding the human lifespan. Considering the guff she took on that assertion, she should now be dancing on an ice floe.
If one looks at Dr. Emanuel’s thesis objectively, his argument is sound. Indeed, he is absolutely correct in citing contemporary statistics about the onset of debilitating illness, and physical and mental impairment after age 75, but there are scary implications that lie beneath the surface of his thesis. The clear implication is that it would be sensible government policy to eliminate people who reach that age. Of course, he does not expatiate on the exact process of elimination. There are two options, one is suicide, self-induced or helped along, the other is… need I cite some examples of this as practiced by certain governments in the middle of the last century?
If such an idea, lurking innocently behind the good doctor’s thinking, gains traction, generations, many not yet born, are all doomed to have the government one day decide what age would be the most cost-effective and propitious period to cut off the life of a human being. Advances in science will, of course, make that number a moving target.
Some day, life-extending discoveries might bring that number to 90 or 120, and 75, Dr. Emanuel’s chosen number, will appear arbitrary. But that’s not the point. It’s the idea itself that fellow humans could one day decide on a figure on which to end the life of others, purported for the common good. Remember the movie Soylent Green about New York, choked with people, and unable to feed the population except by…well, eating each other?
Sooner or later, if such thinking persists, the threshold will become a global “cause célèbre” much like climate change! Imagine the protest signs: The Planet is Choking with People. Make Room for the Young! Out with the Old, They are Strangling the Planet!
Emanuel is 58. I am 86. I am still prolific and productive. I have recently published my 40th novel, Treadmill, The War of the Roses will premiere on Broadway in 2015-2016, a number of my novels are in development as movies, my Fiona Fitzgerald Mystery Collection is being made into a television series, and I am slated to release two more new works in 2015. But from the perspective of 58, Emanuel obviously thinks that 86 is ancient.
Still, I do not believe I am a statistical freak. There are a lot of people my age equally prolific and productive who might look upon him as a whippersnapper still wet behind the ears. I confess to such an opinion myself, despite the logic of his argument, which is, in fact, morally obtuse. I too, am certain, that he will change his mind at the age of 74 and 364 days, if he is still breathing. His assertion doesn’t scare me personally, but it does give me a queasy feeling about my kids and theirs. As they use to say in the ad business, let’s throw the idea on the stoop and see if the cat picks it up.
Being a scientist, I suppose that the good doctor’s faith in statistics underpins his judgment. But the fact is that human beings cannot be categorized the way socks are merchandised today. One size does not fit all. The human genome has proven that beyond a doubt.
Of all people, an official advocate and evangelist of the Obamacare health plan, the very fact that Ezekiel has written this article is the first death knell, the echo of which will continue to reverberate. The very fact that it is he who has written this article gives his idea an eerie significance. I’m not superstitious but it does rattle my cage somewhat knowing that the doctor is named after a biblical prophet who is said to have talked to God.
More about Warren Adler:
Warren Adler is best known for The War of the Roses, his masterpiece fictionalization of a macabre divorce turned into the Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated dark comedy hit starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. Adler's international hit stage adaptation of the novel will premiere on Broadway in 2015-2016. Adler has also optioned and sold film rights for a number of his works including Random Hearts (starring Harrison Ford and Kristen Scott Thomas) and The Sunset Gang (produced by Linda Lavin for PBS' American Playhouse series starring Jerry Stiller, Uta Hagen, Harold Gould and Doris Roberts). In recent development are the Broadway Production of The War of the Roses, to be produced by Jay and Cindy Gutterman, The War of the Roses - The Children (Grey Eagle Films and Permut Presentations), a feature film adaptation of the sequel to Adler's iconic divorce story, Target Churchill (Grey Eagle Films and Solution Entertainment), Residue (Grey Eagle Films), Mourning Glory, to be adapted by Karen Leigh Hopkins, and Capitol Crimes (Grey Eagle Films and Sennet Entertainment), a television series based on his Fiona Fitzgerald mystery series. Warren Adler's newest thriller, Treadmill, is officially available.