On Monday, President-elect Joe Biden announced his 13-member coronavirus task force, a group of health experts that The Washington Post said signaled his "intent to seek a science-based approach to bring the raging pandemic under control." But at least one member of the group — Ezekiel Emanuel, the chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania — is raising some eyebrows for his controversial defense of … dying at the age of 75.
Writing for The Atlantic in 2014, Emanuel argued that he "hope[s] to die at 75" because "living too long is also a loss." Americans are obsessed with extending their lives, he claimed, but doing so means the undesirable likelihood of being incapacitated in your older years, too. "For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop," he goes on, noting that "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." That includes that "flu shots are out."
COVID-19 is especially dangerous to the elderly, with about 70 percent of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths among people 70 years or older. Notably, critics of President Trump's approach to tackling COVID-19 have argued that his administration doesn't care about old people dying. "It affects elderly people," Trump said recently to dismiss the seriousness of the disease. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, meanwhile, was widely mocked after claiming that grandparents are willing to die to save the economy. Also somewhat amusingly, Biden himself is already beyond Emanuel's proposed terminus for desirable living, being 77.
Still, Emanuel stressed that his hope of dying at 75 was a personal choice and one he doesn't impose on others. "Indeed, I often advise people in this age group on how to get the best medical care available in the United States for their ailments," he wrote. "That is their choice, and I want to support them."
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