President-elect Joe Biden has already assembled a task force to target the most immediate crisis his new administration will face: getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control. One of the members is an oncologist and bioethicist named Ezekiel Emanuel, who once wrote an essay for The Atlantic arguing that life is not worth living after 75 years old.
“Living too long is also a loss,” Emanuel wrote in the October 2014 edition of The Atlantic. “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.” Emanuel went on to argue that “creativity, originality and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us” by 75.
The argument is that modern science has gone overboard in the “valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible,” stating that “I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive.”
Emanuel’s essay has put Team Biden in an awkward spot, given that COVID-19 is particularly dangerous for those over 75 and the president-elect himself is 77. Emanuel made it clear that he opposes physician assisted suicide and any forms of euthanasia. “I won’t actively end my life,” Emanuel writes in the essay. “But I won’t try to prolong it, either.”
Conservative Biden critics like Senator Tom Cotton and Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany seized on the essay, but there were leftwing criticisms as well. Slate journalist Jordan Weissmann called it a “pointless PR blunder” and a healthcare advocate named Kendall Brown — whose Twitter bio says she is “fighting to defeat Republican supermajorities” expressed her concerns as well.
The ethicist on @JoeBiden’s COVID Task Force has argued that life isn’t worth living after 75, which makes me feel….uh…..not exactly confident that he wouldn’t argue against the value of disabled lives.
— Kendall Brown (@kendallybrown) November 9, 2020