Keeping retirement weird. Dr. Emanuel’s views are interesting. Mayor Emanuel’s policies are devastating.


Dr. Emanuel and Mayor Emanuel.

Last week I came across the article in Atlantic by Dr. Ezkekial Emanuel about his desire to die at 75.

Dr. Emanuel is a bio-ethicist and influential health adviser to President Barack Obama

As a 66-year old pension-receiving retiree on Medicare, I have a new-found interest in the topic of aging and in the issues facing those of us who are much closer to the end of things than the start.

I am no longer middle-aged. For that to be true I would need to live to be 135.

At the time that I read Dr. Emanuel’s piece I was not aware that he is one of The Mayor’s brothers.

Dr. Emanuel’s stated his thesis clearly: “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” 

He doesn’t advocate suicide. In fact he opposes euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. He also supports a single-payer health-care system.

However he argues that, in general, things get bad after 75 and he will take no medical steps to extend his life.

This means colonoscopies and other cancer-screening tests are out—and before 75. If I were diagnosed with cancer now, at 57, I would probably be treated, unless the prognosis was very poor. But 65 will be my last colonoscopy. No screening for prostate cancer at any age. (When a urologist gave me a PSA test even after I said I wasn’t interested and called me with the results, I hung up before he could tell me. He ordered the test for himself, I told him, not for me.) After 75, if I develop cancer, I will refuse treatment. Similarly, no cardiac stress test. No pacemaker and certainly no implantable defibrillator. No heart-valve replacement or bypass surgery. If I develop emphysema or some similar disease that involves frequent exacerbations that would, normally, land me in the hospital, I will accept treatment to ameliorate the discomfort caused by the feeling of suffocation, but will refuse to be hauled off.

And while he makes clear that this is a personal decision on his part, I think he is making a social argument about the value of  life after 75.

It is an interesting read, although I kept thinking to myself, the guy is 57.

Let’s see what he says in twenty years.

I also think family discussions about end-of-life decisions – about what are our expectations as we get older – are important to have.

There is rarely a time when I get together with my retired colleagues when quality-of-life as a part of aging is not part of the conversation.

A friend described it the other day as the organ recital.

What parts of the body are working well. Which are not.

Our lives can be a struggle as we age.

Yet many struggle with health issues who are younger than 75.

Some far younger.

My mom was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer at 62. She lived 15 more years fighting it, but not consumed by it.

At 66 I have become a devoted member of a gym. With a trainer. I joined at first with the belief that it would help me live longer, having suffered a heart attack at 52.

I am a regular at the gym now because it makes me feel better – now. It is not delayed gratification. I have less aches and pains. I can lift my leg up to tie my shoe laces without grabbing the hem of my pants. I can bend down to pick a penny off the ground without groaning. I can ride my bike. I wake without back pain. I am off – with my doctor’s blessing – most of the medications I was on while I was still working. My weight is way down to healthier levels. Although I can still work on that.

I am pretty sure that I disagree with Dr. Emanuel’s view about life past 75.

But the views of The Mayor’s brother apparently caused some concerns for Rahm. They caused enough election-year concern that Rahm had his press flak send an email to reporters about it yesterday.

“The mayor personally disagrees with his brother’s view on dying at 75, but he also believes it’s important to look at what Zeke was really exploring, which is how to live a full life – and that’s a question worth asking,” Kelley Quinn, the mayor’s communications director, wrote in an e-mail to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Of course, he and [younger brother] Ari also told him not to worry, because they’re going to kill him at 70 anyway.”

I imagine that the last line was supposed to be a joke.

Ari Emanuel, you remember, is the Hollywood agent who does most of the million dollar fundraising among his clients for Rahm’s campaigns. Ari is reported to be the obnoxious character, Ari Gold, that Jeremy Piven played in the HBO series, Entourage.

Why would The Mayor be worried about the medical views of his bio-ethicist brother?

Perhaps it is because he has just cut retiree health insurance for thousands of city public employees.

Last week a federal court refused to stop The Mayor from ending promised city subsidies to health insurance for retirees.

Nearly 25,000 current retirees will be affected.

Many over 75.

Dr. Emanuel’s think-piece on aging is interesting to read.

But Mayor Emanuel’s polices towards those who are aging are devastating.

13 thoughts on “Keeping retirement weird. Dr. Emanuel’s views are interesting. Mayor Emanuel’s policies are devastating.

  1. When Judy Woodruff intereview Dr. Emanuel last night on PBS, he stated that he would hate to have his grandchildren view him as “frail” and considered that possibility a tragedy.
    Obviously, a fear of helplessness or lack of control runs in the family. How does that figure in to attitudes toward the poor and defenseless in society in general?

  2. I was outraged and appalled when I read zeke’s view. Considering how shabbily seniors are treated I felt he was planting the seed of denial of medical intervention and insurance coverage for those over 75. His view promotes the idea that with their pensions, Medicare and social security payments seniors are just too expensive for society to bear. I must not have been alone as I read a rebuttal from a gentleman in the Tribune the next day echoing my sentiments who stated that being in the public eye and a physician, he is in a position to sway public policy toward this type of legislation: just let ’em die. Of course anyone with the bankroll of the Emmanuel’s will easily be able to more than afford any care needed at 75. But to hell with the rest of us!

    1. You can judge a society by how it treats its elders. What does this, and what’s happening to pensions, say about ours?

  3. My 83 year old mother, who had breast cancer nine years ago and survived it, recently went in for her annual mammogram. She had to deal with a hostile radiologist who told her that after the age of 75 she was only supposed to get mammograms once every five years. She got the mammogram, but was shaken by the experience.

    The American Cancer Society recommends once a year regardless of age, so this baffled me. Is this an Obama Care recommendation? Has anyone heard of this happening before?

    1. I believe that this is the Cancer Federaltion’s view….but I’m sure for those who have remained cancer free. I would have reported this behavior to the hospital management…perhaps you can still do so.

      1. Two possibilities:
        One is just a rude radiologist. Not their job.
        A directive to cut costs. Harvard has over 50 and over 75 federal guidelines, but points out that no guidelines are meant to cover individual situations.

      2. Thanks, Susan and Fred. I talked to mom and she said she went to her oncologist a couple of days ago. She told him about the encounter and he said that he knew who she was talking about and that person was no longer with the hospital. I’ll assume it’s because of lack of people skills.

        I never heard of the Cancer Federation before. Unlike the American Cancer Society, they won’t receive any support from me. A civilized society takes care of its elderly.

  4. “The moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped”.-Hubert Humphrey

    Hubert Humphrey was a true Democrat. Where are the true Democrats today? We surely need them today more then ever.

  5. For the best understanding of Zeke & his sibs, I strongly recommend (& take it out of the library–he doesn’t need any more $$!)reading his book, The Brothers Emanuel. Also–read Mayor 1% (I think it’s in paperback). Buy that one!

  6. I once heard that when people turn 75 the emanuels want them wrapped in bubble wrap and shipped to des moines, not really sure why.

  7. Its a load of nonsense. It should be about quality of life and the choice of the individual not the doctor or the state. My mother believed in Euthanasia and at 90 she came down with a sudden onset of delirium . She lives in a locked ward of a nursing home and hallucinates and is plagued with MRSA as her kidneys and immune system gradually deterioirate. She lives because of the strong heart and the otherwise good health that got her to 90 in good physical and mental health . And then she wasn’t Now she is in a state she never wanted to live in and she made her wishes clear Everyone should . but she is forced to exist like this . Would you let your cat or dog?
    As for 75 she was in great shape had a minor breast cancer quickly cured and healed . It shouldn’t be up to the Mayor or his brother or his doctor or your kids it should be up to you . and people should respect that . My mother did not get that

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