On Monday, Joe Biden — who has claimed the mantle of president-elect while President Donald Trump continues to contest the preliminary election results — named 13 health experts to his Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, including former Obamacare architect Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel. Back in 2014, 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 to an advanced age.
Biden named three co-chairs to the advisory board: Dr. David Kessler, who served as FDA commissioner under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general under Barack Obama; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate professor of internal medicine, public health, and management at Yale University.
Other notables on the board include Dr. Beth Cameron, who helped create a “pandemic playbook” under Obama, and Dr. Rebecca Katz, who served on the Biden campaign’s advisory committee on COVID-19. Emanuel also served on the advisory committee during the campaign.
“Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” Biden said in a statement. “The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations.”
As of Monday, the U.S. has neared 10 million coronavirus cases with more than 237,000 recorded deaths. Hospitalization rates and death rates are falling but the disease remains a serious concern, especially for the elderly.
Elderly Americans and those with comorbidities face the most risk from COVID-19, which makes Emanuel’s op-ed in 2014 particularly worrisome. While he began the article from a personal perspective — saying that he personally would not like to live past 75 — he later applied that same mentality to others, encouraging the elderly to embrace death rather than clinging to prolonged life.
In fact, Emanuel’s op-ed goes on to subtly 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.”
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 (and he will turn 78 next week). Emanuel himself is 63 years old. 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 [Sir William] 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.
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 Joe Biden has stopped short of advocating full socialized medicine and Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare-for-All” plan, he does support a public option — a step in that direction. Republicans need to hold the U.S. Senate to prevent his restructuring of the American health care system.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.