A Death Panel By Any Other Name? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
A Death Panel By Any Other Name?

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is director of the Clinical Bioethics Department of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and heads the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been acknowledged as a prime mover and advocate for Obamacare. So his recent 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 the major cost of health care occurring beyond that age. He says 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 a principal advocate of Obamacare, we should acknowledge that no matter one’s political stance, Sarah Palin had it right: that one day bureaucratic death panels will 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 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, making Dr. Emanuel’s choice of 75 seem arbitrarily restricting. The point is that we must not concede the idea that such a thing might be done in the first place. If such thinking persists, the threshold might 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 fortieth novel, the stage adaptation of my bestselling novel The War of the Roses will premiere on Broadway within two years, a number of my works are in development as movies or television series. But 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 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, the very fact that Ezekiel, an official advocate and evangelist of the Obamacare health plan, has written this article is a death knell whose echo will continue to reverberate. 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. 

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