Ezekiel Emanuel, bioethicist and one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act, told the Atlantic, “Seventy-five. That’s how long I want to live. Seventy-five years.” He says he will have his last colonoscopy at 65, will use palliative rather than curative treatments, will let any disease run its natural course and will die the natural way.
At age 57, the brother of Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s Mayor, still has a bit less than twenty years to go, if his calculations are correct. While he didn’t mention anything about euthanasia, he did say he believes there is an obsession with prolonging life to the point where many Americans are not slowing the aging process, they are “merely slowing the dying process.”
Emanuel is also the director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. He told the Atlantic that by 75, “I will have loved and been loved. I will have pursued my life’s projects and made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make. And hopefully, I won’t have too many physical or mental limitations.”
While he claimed not to tout his point of view as appropriate for everyone, Emanuel said there is the absurd pursuit of the “American immortal” in an obsession to prolong life. He points out the result is that people are burdened with taking care of their parents, and if that parent lives to 95, a child will have to tend to their needs when retired.
In a jaw dropping analogy, Emanuel discussed his own father who survived a heart attack. “Today, at 76, he can swim, read the newspaper, needle his kids on the phone, and still live with my mother in his own home.” Now that’s nice…but wait for this, “But everything is sluggish. Although he didn’t die from the heart attack, no one is saying he’s living a vibrant life.”
If Ezekiel is under the weather, would it be a sinister thing to do to go up to him and say, “Hey, Zeke, what’s the matter? A bit sluggish? You don’t seem so vibrant. Wonder if it is worthwhile to keep going on at all?”
Then again, after putting Jonathan Swift to shame in what unfortunately is something he means seriously and is not satire, Emanuel can, after all, change his mind. He told the Atlantic, “I retain the right to change my mind and offer a (vibrant?) vigorous and reasoned defense of living as long as possible.” I hope he is generous enough to also change his mind and decide other people belong here too past a certain age.