‘Why I hope to die at 75’: Doctor hired to Biden’s coronavirus task force faces backlash for resurfaced article

‘Living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining’

Louise Hall
Tuesday 10 November 2020 11:25 EST
Dr Fauci says he will work with Biden

A doctor hired by president-elect Joe Biden has come under fire for an article published in 2014 in which he expressed he did not think life is worth living beyond the age of 75.

Doctor Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist who was appointed alongside nine other advisory board members to his coronavirus task force this week, previously wrote an article in The Atlantic titled: 'Why I hope to die at 75’.

The subhead of the article outlining the doctor's point of view reads: “An argument that society and families—and you—will be better off if nature takes its course swiftly and promptly.”

“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,” the doctor previously wrote.

“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.”

The doctor explained that he would decline flu shots and other life prolonging health care come the age of 75.

Notably, he said that 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.”

“For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop,” Dr Emanuel, who is now 63-years-old, said.

The doctor specified that he actively opposed legalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide but rather that his views reflect the kind and amount of health care he would agree to after 75.

The resurfaced article has sparked significant backlash on social media given his newly appointed position in the coronavirus taskforce.

Many Republicans criticized the views Dr Emanuel expressed in the piece and argued it raised questions about his position on the government advisory board.

“‘Dying at 75 will not be a tragedy.’ @JoeBiden’s Covid task force pick, Dr Ezekiel Emanuel, on why life is not worth preserving after 75,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton wrote: “A member of Biden’s new coronavirus task force is a lockdown enthusiast who has written that living past 75 isn’t worth it. Americans want our country opened up, not creepy bioethicists who enjoy playing God.”

Those over the age of 70 are more at risk for severe effects of the disease and many efforts across the US are targeted at protecting those in vulnerable age groups from the disease.  

The president-elect himself is also 77 years old.

Slate journalist Jordan Weissmann tweeted: “Putting Zeke Emmanuel on the Covid task force is a small but pointless PR blunder. What does he bring that someone else who hasn’t written about how life is over at 75 couldn’t?”

Others said the article raised questions in regard to how the doctor would regard the value of lives of those who are disabled.

“The ethicist on @JoeBiden’s Covid Task Force has argued that life isn’t worth living after 75, which makes me feel....uh.....not exactly confident that he wouldn’t argue against the value of disabled lives. Biden and @KamalaHarris can and MUST do better than this.#CripTheVote,” Kendall Brown, a healthcare advocate, said.

Political commentator Liz Wheeler tweeted: “So Biden picks Zeke Emanuel for his Covid task force. Emanuel wants to die at 75. Argues that old age shouldn't be prolonged. Says old people don't contribute to society. Says he'll refuse healthcare, even flu shot. But now he'll "protect" our nation's elderly from Covid?!”

The doctor is chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania who since 1997 has served as chair of the Department of Bioethics at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr Emanuel did not immediately respond to The Independent’s request for comment on the article.

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