A doctor whom President-elect Joe Biden has appointed to advise about the coronavirus is facing criticism for an article he wrote six years ago in which he argued that he had no aspiration to live beyond the age of 75.
The essay by Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist who is one of the 10 advisory board members that Biden appointed to his coronavirus task force this week, outlined how he believed by that age “creativity, originality and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us.”
“Living too long is also a loss. 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,” he wrote in the piece for the October 2014 edition of The Atlantic headlined, “Why I Hope to Die at 75.”
He said that Americans were obsessed with health remedies in a “valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible,” and that “I reject this aspiration. I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive.
“For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop,” said Emmanuel, who is 63. He wrote he would reject medical treatments like flu shots, and that “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.”
Emanuel made it clear in the piece that he he opposed physician-assisted suicide, and did not want to reach 75 and then simply die.
Many took to social media to highlight the awkward questions Emmanuel has raised, given that he will play a role in protecting the elderly from COVID-19, not to mention that Biden himself is 77.
President Donald Trump‘s campaign account @TeamTrump tweeted: “CRAZY: Biden’s Pick for Coronavirus Task Force Said ‘Living Too Long Is Also a Loss,’ and ‘Dying at 75 will not be a tragedy.'”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted: “@JoeBiden ‘s COVID task force pick, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, on why life is not worth preserving after 75.”
The host of the Daily Wire’s The Matt Walsh Show tweeted to his 517,000 followers: “The coronavirus disproportionately kills those who are 75 and older. Joe Biden’s coronavirus adviser has argued in the past that people who are over the age of 75 would be better off dead. What could possibly go wrong?”
Republican Senator for Arkansas, Tom Cotton, tweeted: “Americans want our country opened up, not creepy bioethicists who enjoy playing God.”
Conservative attorney and political analyst Gayle Trotter tweeted: “Oops I guess if flu shots are out for those 75 or older, Biden’s coronavirus adviser must really oppose vaccines and even ANTIBIOTICS for those same aged folk.”
Meanwhile, healthcare advocate Kendall Brown, whose handle describes how she is “fighting to defeat Republican supermajorities,” tweeted that Emanuel’s piece “makes me feel….uh…..not exactly confident that he wouldn’t argue against the value of disabled lives.”
Slate journalist Jordan Weissmann tweeted: “Putting Zeke Emmanuel on the Covid task force is a small but pointless PR blunder. What does he bring that someone else who hasn’t written about how life is over at 75 couldn’t?”
Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney described Emanuel as the “life-after-75-isn’t-worth-living” guy, tweeting that Biden’s nomination of him to “address the disease that mostly affects seniors is ironic in itself,” adding that “there’s no mention here of one’s relationship with one’s kids/grandkids.”
Conservative political commentator Liz Wheeler tweeted: “So Biden picks Zeke Emanuel for his COVID task force. Emanuel wants to die at 75. Argues that old age shouldn’t be prolonged. Says old people don’t contribute to society. Says he’ll refuse healthcare, even flu shot. But now he’ll “protect” our nation’s elderly from COVID?!”
Emanuel is Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania. Newsweek has contacted Emanuel for comment through the university.
He said this week that it would be 12 months before the disease is brought under control in America and that stronger safety measures will be needed.
“I think it’ll be closer to November , closer toward the end of the year. But it’ll probably be enough to begin opening colleges and universities [and] schools, again depending on how we distribute this thing, and how effective we can be on that,” he told Marketwatch.