Opinion

Former Obama health care adviser: I want to die at 75

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The euthanasia and assisted suicide movement is growing, especially in Europe. While euthanasia is illegal in the United States, assisted suicide is allowed in five states. It’s problematic for a lot of reasons — legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia leads to rampant abuses, from euthanizing the elderly and disabled, people with mental illnesses, people who have been abused, and even children.

What kind of attitude makes people find these horrific actions acceptable? Former health care adviser to President Obama, Ezekiel Emanuel, demonstrated it perfectly when he penned a column saying that he wanted to die at 75.

This preference drives my daughters crazy. It drives my brothers crazy. My loving friends think I am crazy. They think that I can’t mean what I say; that I haven’t thought clearly about this, because there is so much in the world to see and do. To convince me of my errors, they enumerate the myriad people I know who are over 75 and doing quite well. They are certain that as I get closer to 75, I will push the desired age back to 80, then 85, maybe even 90.

… But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: 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. 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.

… My father illustrates the situation well. About a decade ago, just shy of his 77th birthday, he began having pain in his abdomen. Like every good doctor, he kept denying that it was anything important. But after three weeks with no improvement, he was persuaded to see his physician. He had in fact had a heart attack, which led to a cardiac catheterization and ultimately a bypass. Since then, he has not been the same. 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. Although he didn’t die from the heart attack, no one would say he is living a vibrant life. When he discussed it with me, my father said, “I have slowed down tremendously. That is a fact. I no longer make rounds at the hospital or teach.” Despite this, he also said he was happy.

Surprisingly, Emanuel claims to oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide. So how would he cause himself to die by 75? He says he wants to stop all medical treatment, even for small things like receiving a flu shot, and will only consent to palliative or hospice care. That decision is fine for him to make for himself, but he’s arguing that all people should do this, because to him, life isn’t worth living after 75 — and his reasoning is horrible.

He uses his father as an example of why people should die by 75. His father, a doctor, can no longer make rounds at his hospital or teach, but can enjoy other activities, live independently, and states that he is happy. To Emanuel, this is an example of a life not worth living, because it doesn’t meet his standards of a fulfilling life.

The problem is that Emanuel doesn’t realize or acknowledge that all human life is precious, all human life has dignity and value, and that includes elderly people who can’t live the fast-paced lifestyle that a 20-, 30-, 40-, or 50-year-old can. It’s a common attitude among the pro-abortion crowd, because they don’t see every life as valuable. If a person cannot be productive or enjoy the proper activities, then clearly, they don’t deserve to live anymore… and just ignore how they feel about it.

People like Emanuel know better. And despite Emanuel’s insistence that he opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide, it is this exact attitude that allows them both to flourish.

When we start assigning caveats to what makes a life worth living, then a culture of death will swiftly move in. It doesn’t matter if someone is in a wheelchair, can no longer work, or is disabled. Every life has value — and Emanuel’s anti-life screed just stripped of entire class of people of their inherent worth and dignity.

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