November 9, 2020

WHAT COULD GO WRONG? Biden’s Pick for Coronavirus Task Force: ‘Living Too Long Is Also a  Loss.’

This morning, President-elect Biden announced that his coronavirus task force would include Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

In a 2014 essay in The Atlantic, Emanuel, explained why he hoped to die at age 75, and why he finds the idea of living past that date to be morally problematic:

As Jim Geraghty writes, it’s curious choice by Biden, considering the virus is particularly dangerous to the elderly.”

Later in that above Atlantic article, as PJM’s Tyler O’Neil spotted, Emanuel wrote that in his opinion, for someone over 75, “Flu shots are out:”

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. 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.

Obviously, a do-not-resuscitate order and a complete advance directive indicating no ventilators, dialysis, surgery, antibiotics, or any other medication—nothing except palliative care even if I am conscious but not mentally competent—have been written and recorded. In short, no life-sustaining interventions. I will die when whatever comes first takes me.

Incidentally, Siri, how old is the presumptive president-elect? (No, not her, the other one.)

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