Culture

Biden's Coronavirus Advisor Told the Elderly to Avoid Flu Shots, Vaccines

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Peterborough, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

Former Vice President Joe Biden — the presumptive Democratic nominee — may not openly support full-on socialized medicine, but his choice of advisors on a new Public Health Advisory Committee is very suspicious. Biden announced the committee as part of his plan to fight the coronavirus, but one of his advisors, Ezekiel Emanuel, published an op-ed in The Atlantic saying he wants to die at age 75 because life simply isn’t worth living after that point. The op-ed isn’t just personal, either — it attempts to convince the reader that death may be preferable to living in advanced age.

In fact, Emanuel’s op-ed goes on to advise the elderly to refuse life-saving medical care — the exact kind of care needed to combat the coronavirus. Given the fact that the coronavirus poses the greatest risk for the elderly, Biden’s choice of Emanuel is troubling — if not downright terrifying.

“Here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss,” Emanuel writes. “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.”

Ouch! Try telling older voters that their lives are not worth living in November — see how that will go over at the polls. Yet Emanuel’s op-ed is not just insulting to the dignity of the elderly — it actively encourages them to avoid medical care.

Biden’s coronavirus advisor actively encourages the elderly to “think of an alternative to succumbing to that slow constriction of activities and aspirations imperceptibly imposed by aging.”

What about simple stuff? Flu shots are out. Certainly 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.

Yes, Biden’s coronavirus advisor encouraged people over 75 to avoid flu shots. Joe Biden himself is 77. Yet Emanuel’s advocacy against basic health treatments extends further.

A big challenge is antibiotics for pneumonia or skin and urinary infections. Antibiotics are cheap and largely effective in curing infections. It is really hard for us to say no. Indeed, even people who are sure they don’t want life-extending treatments find it hard to refuse antibiotics. But, as Osler reminds us, unlike the decays associated with chronic conditions, death from these infections is quick and relatively painless. So, no to antibiotics.

In another passage, Emanuel says he wants “no life-sustaining interventions” for himself. “I will die when whatever comes first takes me.”

Why advocate against flu shots, vaccines, antibiotics, and life-sustaining interventions?

You see, Ezekiel Emanuel is not a random doctor. He served as a top health care advisor to President Obama and was a central figure in the push for Obamacare. It is quite likely his end goal is some form of socialized medicine, and socialized medicine usually involves some form of health rationing.

When the government decides who does and who does not receive life-saving medical care, it may decide the lives of the elderly are not worth living. Indeed, experts in Italy have warned that the elderly will not receive intensive care as the coronavirus overwhelms the Italian health care system. This kind of rationing is arguably a feature — not a bug — of socialized medicine, and Emanuel appears to be advocating for it.

If the elderly resign themselves to death, then there is less demand for life-saving care and treatments. The government need not ration care if savvy doctors can convince the elderly to reject it of their own accord.

These arguments are barbaric and only serve to illustrate the evils of socialized medicine. Health care need not be a zero-sum game — human innovation working through free markets can rise to the occasion and provide medicine for the young and old alike. Yet the kind of central planning increasingly in vogue on the left tends to view most forms of wealth as a pie to be distributed, rather than as a plant to be grown and cultivated.

While Biden does not support Medicare for All — Bernie Sanders’s full socialized medicine plan — he does support the public option, which would also devastate American health care.

As for Biden himself, he is 77, two years older than the age when Ezekiel Emanuel said life becomes not worth living. In fact, his op-ed arguably made a case against Biden’s presidential bid.

Yet it seems extremely chilling that Biden, the presumptive nominee of one of America’s two major parties, would select for his coronavirus health advisory team a person who asked the elderly to turn down life-saving medical care — especially flu shots and vaccines. Does Biden know anything about his own advisors?

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.