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.