Monday, October 06, 2014

AGING - Question, How Long Should We Live?

"A doctor’s argument against living longer" PBS NewsHour 10/3/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Next: a provocative piece of writing from one of the country’s leading health care experts.

In the current “Atlantic” magazine, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel argues that the quality of human life begins to drop off by age 75, enough, he says, that he will opt out of medical treatments and let nature take its course.

A trained oncologist, Dr. Emanuel is chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, and a former Obama administration policy adviser.  He is also older brother to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Hollywood talent agent Ari Emanuel. I sat down with him earlier today.

Dr. Zeke Emanuel, thank you for talking with us.

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, University of Pennsylvania:  It’s my great pleasure.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, you have created quite a stir:  “Why I Want to Die at 75.”

Why 75?  Why not 85?  Why not 70?

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL:  Well, first of all, let’s clarify, I expect to be alive at 75, and I’m not going to kill myself.  I don’t believe in legalized euthanasia or assisted suicide, but I am going to stop medical treatments.

And I look at 75, when I look at all the data on physical disability, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, loss of creativity, slowing down of the mind and the body, and 75 seems like that, albeit somewhat arbitrary, moment where you get the maximum chance you’re still going to be vital and alive and vigorous.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So it’s kind of arbitrary.

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL:  I say that, yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And you talk about something you call the American immortal.  Who is this being?

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL:  My brother.  The American immortal are people who want to put off death as long as possible, want to live as long as possible, get every day out of it.  They take all these — they change their diet.  They exercise like mad.  They take protein concoctions and all sorts of other supplements.

And it’s almost a religion for them to live as long as possible.  And I think they — in their mind, they will be as vital as they are when they’re, say, 50 all the way to the end.  But, of course, we all do deteriorate, we all do slow down, we all do get disabilities.

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