President-elect Joe Biden, who has spent months ridiculing outgoing President Donald Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, has tapped Dr. Zeke Emanuel, the brother of former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, to his COVID-19 task force.
Emanuel, a 63-year-old oncologist, is known for his support of health care rationing as well as his desire to die by the age 75.
In 2009, Emanuel, the then-head bioethicist at the National Institutes of Health, suggested age is a proper metric for determining who receives care, should resources become scarce. He wrote in an article for Lancet:
Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination; every person lives through different life stages rather than being a single age. Even if 25-year-olds receive priority over 65-year-olds, everyone who is 65 years now was previously 25 years. Treating 65-year-olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist; treating them differently because they have already had more life-years is not.
While he admitted in the paper embracing the so-called “complete lives system” would have been “premature” at the time, Emanuel was certainly laying the groundwork for embracing such an apparatus in the future.
He went on to write in a subsequent article for the Hastings Center Report that “services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed.” Emanuel added, “An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.”
In a 2014 editorial for The Atlantic, Emanuel explained he does not want to live to be older than 75 years, because by the time he reaches that age, he “will have lived a complete life.”
“[H]ere is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss,” he wrote. “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. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.”
It’s worth noting Biden, the president-elect for whom Emanuel now works, will turn 78 on Nov. 20. He will be the oldest commander-in-chief in American history.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) criticized Biden for naming Emanuel to his COVID-19 task force, writing, “Americans want our country opened up, not creepy bioethicists who enjoy playing God.”
Biden has argued Trump sees senior citizens as “expendable” and “forgettable.” The White House, though, has made the opposite case. In mid-October, the Trump administration announced a deal with CVS and Walgreens to fast-track vaccination access to senior Americans in long-term care facilities for free. Shortly thereafter, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters all seniors, health care workers, first responders, and vulnerable individuals could receive a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of January 2021. Such a guarantee, it should be noted, relies on the availability of a viable vaccine that’s safe, effective, and widely available.
Drug manufacturer Pfizer announced Monday its vaccine data suggests the shots it’s currently developing could be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19 infections. The company is on track to seek an emergency use authorization by the end of November.
During a recent interview with MarketWatch, Emanuel predicted things will not get better in the U.S. until November 2021.