Science | August 22, 2019 11:07 am

Is Life Worth Living After 75? One Doctor Says No.

Ezekiel Emanuel says five years later, he stands by his "Why I Hope To Die At 75" essay

A hospice nurse visits an elderly patient. (Getty Images)
A hospice nurse visits an elderly patient. (Getty Images)
Getty Images

It’s been five years since Ezekiel Emanuel published his controversial essay “Why I Hope To Die At 75,” in which he claimed that he would refuse any antibiotics or vaccinations once he turned 75, opting instead to let nature run its course. Now, in a new interview with the MIT Technology Review, Emanuel says he stands by what he wrote and questions “whether our consumption is worth our contribution” once we hit 75.

Emanuel, who is a medical doctor and the brother of former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and notorious Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, clarifies that he doesn’t have a death wish. “It’s not an extreme position,” he told the publication. “I’m not going to die at 75. I’m not committing suicide. I’m not asking for euthanasia. I’m going to stop taking medications with the sole justification that the medication or intervention is to prolong my life.”

He argues that our cultural obsession with longevity is taking attention and resources away from future generations. “Lots of presidents and lots of politicians say, ‘Children are our most valuable resource.’ But we as a country don’t behave like that,” he said. “We don’t invest in children the way we invest in adults, especially older adults. One of the statistics I like to point out is if you look at the federal budget, $7 goes to people over 65 for every dollar for people under 18.”

Emanuel cites narcissism as one reason people in Silicon Valley are fascinated with the idea of extending life expectancy, adding, “They’re fascinated by their life extension! This idea that they’re fascinated with life extension [in general]? Naw, they’re fascinated by their life extension. They find it hard to even contemplate the idea that they are going to die and the world is going to be fine without them.”

At age 62, he still has a ways to go before he hits his self-imposed deadline, but ultimately he believes life should be about quality over quantity. “I do fear death,” he said. “But I think I fear being sort of decrepit and falling apart more.”

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