The declaration, made in a 2014 Atlantic essay titled ‘Why I Hope to Die at 75’, could raise some awkward questions, considering the fact the president-elect is 77, and that Emanuel is now entrusted with protecting the nation’s elderly from COVID-19.
The Oncologist, 63, wrote at the time that he believed by 75, ‘creativity, originality and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us.’
He suggested that society, as well as family members, would be ‘better off’ if nature took ‘its course swiftly and promptly’.
Emanuel also stated that beyond the age of 75, he personally will begin rejecting routine medical treatments such as flu shots.
‘Flu shots are out,’ he wrote. ‘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.’
Oncologist Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, one of the 10 advisory board members appointed to Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force on Monday, once suggested in an article that life is not worth living after 75
The argument, made in a 2014 essay published in the Atlantic titled ‘Why I Hope to Die at 75’, could provoke some awkward conversations, considering the president-elect is 77
Emanuel argued in his essay that since the 1960s, ‘increases in longevity have been achieved mainly by extending the lives of people over 60. Rather than saving more young people, we are stretching out old age.’
‘It is true that compared with their counterparts 50 years ago, seniors today are less disabled and more mobile,’ he continued. ‘But over recent decades, increases in longevity seem to have been accompanied by increases in disability—not decreases.’
Emanuel made it clear in the essay that he opposes physician-assisted suicide, and said he wasn’t hoping to reach 75 and then simply die.
‘I am talking about how long I want to live and the kind and amount of health care I will consent to after 75,’ Emanuel clarified. ‘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.
‘I reject this notion,’ he continued. ‘I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop.’
Emanuel wrote that, in-part, his view of life post-75 was influenced by his father, who, just shy of his 77th birthday reportedly began suffering from pain in his abdomen which later led to a heart-attack.
‘Since then, he has not been the same,’ Emanuel said of his father. ‘Once the prototype of a hyperactive Emanuel, suddenly his walking, his talking, his humor got slower.
‘Today he can swim, read the newspaper, needle his kids on the phone, and still live with my mother in their own house. But everything seems sluggish,’ he continued. ‘Although he didn’t die from the heart attack, no one would say he is living a vibrant life.’
Emanuel conceded that despite the fact his father has ‘slowed down tremendously’, he did say he was happy.
Emanuel, now 63, wrote that he believed by 75, ‘creativity, originality and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us’
Emanuel pointed to a study that found creativity rises rapidly as an individual’s career commences, peaks about 20 years into the career, at about age 40 or 45, and then enters a slow, age-related decline (a graph included in the story to illustrate the point is shown above)
But he warned it’s not just mental acuity and speed that is adversely affected by the trappings of age: ‘we literally lose our creativity’, he wrote.
Emanuel pointed to a study that found creativity rises rapidly as an individual’s career commences, peaks about 20 years into the career, at about age 40 or 45, and then enters a slow, age-related decline.
‘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,’ Emanuel wrote.
‘Similarly, poets tend to peak earlier than novelists do … 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.’
Emanuel stated that by age 75, ‘we reach that unique, albeit somewhat arbitrarily chosen, moment when we have lived a rich and complete life, and have hopefully imparted the right memories to our children.’
But he said living too far beyond that point dramatically increases the chances that ‘memories of vitality will be crowded out by the agonies of decline,’ as terminal illnesses or other likely health issues take hold.
‘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,’ he wrote. ‘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.’
He continued: ‘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.’
Emanuel’s appointment to Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force was criticized by Republican Senator Tom Cotton on Monday, who also shared the article
Emanuel also stated that he would reject simple treatments such as flu shots.
‘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,’ he wrote.
‘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 … unlike the decays associated with chronic conditions, death from these infections is quick and relatively painless. So, no to antibiotics.’
Emanuel’s appointment to Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force was criticized by Republican Senator Tom Cotton on Twitter Monday, who also shared the article in his pejorative post.
‘A member of Biden’s new coronavirus task force is a lockdown enthusiast who has written that living past 75 isn’t worth it,’ Cotton wrote to Twitter. ‘Americans want our country opened up, not creepy bioethicists who enjoy playing God.’
Emanuel was a special adviser for health policy to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2009 to 2011. He also helped shape the policy for Obamacare.
He is also the brother of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a close ally of former President Barack Obama.
Other members of Biden’s task force include Rick Bright, the whistleblower who was ousted as chief of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority earlier this year and has since become an outspoken Trump critic.
The advisory board is co-chaired by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who served toward the end of President Barack Obama’s administration; former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler; and Deputy Director of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation Marcella Nunez-Smith.