Former Vice President Joe Biden announced a new Public Health Advisory Committee to fight the coronavirus on Wednesday, and his choice of one particular advisor should raise eyebrows across the country. You see, Biden is 77 years old. His advisor, 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. His op-ed isn’t just personal, either — it attempts to convince the reader that death isn’t so bad an option compared to advanced age.
Emanuel’s op-ed should disqualify him for this position for a host of reasons — the coronavirus poses the greatest threat to the elderly, for example — but perhaps the most obvious reason why Biden should have avoided him like the plague (sorry) has to do with Emanuel’s analysis of what age does to cognitive ability. You see, Ezekiel Emanuel’s op-ed explains why Joe Biden should not become president.
“Even if we aren’t demented, our mental functioning deteriorates as we grow older,” Emanuel explains. “Age-associated declines in mental-processing speed, working and long-term memory, and problem-solving are well established. Conversely, distractibility increases. We cannot focus and stay with a project as well as we could when we were young. As we move slower with age, we also think slower.”
Sound familiar? My colleague Matt Margolis pointed out six recent examples of Biden’s cognitive decline, including his forgetting the words of the Declaration of Independence, his angry outbursts at voters, his inability to remember Barack Obama’s name, and his repeated forgetting what office he is running for. Biden is a mess, and Emanuel’s old op-ed explains exactly why. This should be more than enough reason for the former VP to exclude Emanuel from his coronavirus advisory committee, but it gets worse.
See, Emanuel’s op-ed didn’t just explain why Biden shouldn’t be president. It also revealed why Emanuel shouldn’t be within 1,000 feet of any decisionmaking when it comes to the coronavirus. Biden’s shiny new advisor doesn’t just want to die at age 75 — he wants to convince readers to embrace death at that age, too. He even urges readers to avoid taking flu shots or antibiotics so that they might be the first to die in an outbreak.
He bases all of this on the idea that the lives of the elderly are not worth living.
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.
Wow. This is the guy Biden taps to fight a disease that is most deadly to the elderly? Emanuel thinks their lives are barely worth living. Worse, he 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.
Is it possible Joe Biden has chosen a pro-coronavirus advisor to help lead his efforts against the coronavirus? 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.”
Conservatives have long warned that socialized medicine is a threat to those the government deems less valuable. When the government decides who does and who does not receive lifesaving 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.
Emanuel’s position on Joe Bien’s coronavirus team is more than just ironic — it’s dangerous and terrifying.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.