Culture, Science & Faith

ObamaCare Devalues Life

An architect of the law writes of how life won't be worth living after 75.

Sep. 23, 2014

Over the last several decades, Americans have statistically had one of the lowest mortality rates in the world. This fact can be attributed to advances in medicine, surgical procedures and lifestyle changes amongst our populace to prolong life. Americans valued life – and most still do. Many Americans, both young and old, have turned to dieting, exercising and taking vitamins and supplements to enhance their immune system to try to live longer. In the words of health policy guru Ezekiel Emanuel, these choices and activities can now be defined as a culture of the “American immortal.”

According to Emanuel, however, “living too long is also a loss.” In his writing he opines that once a person reaches a point in life where he or she can’t contribute to society any more, it’s time for them to consider making choices that will allow them to leave the world sooner rather than later. He argues that since many elderly often become mentally incapacitated and the chances of having a stroke, heart attack and cancer increase, they and those around them would be better off if their life was not prolonged. After all, who wants to be left with taking care of someone who can’t take care of themselves, and who wants to pay for all those medical bills?

“By the time I reach 75,” Emanuel writes, “I will have lived a complete life. I will have loved and been loved. My children will be grown and in the midst of their own rich lives. I will have seen my grandchildren born and beginning their lives. I will have pursued my life’s projects and made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make.” Why should someone who has lived a long, full life need to live any longer?

Because life is precious. Life is valuable. For numerous reasons, humans generally desire to live as long as possible. If we as human beings didn’t place such a high value on life, then why would so many people seek to improve their health, visit the doctor to receive treatment for illnesses, take vitamins and do as much as possible to keep those around us alive for as long as we can?

To be clear, Emanuel does not advocate (at least in the article) for euthanasia, or for physician assisted suicide. But he suggests the burden of an elderly person’s life is not worth the cost to have them kept alive for their last remaining years.

That may be a legitimate question for us to consider individually and with our families as we age, but Emanuel’s thoughts are particularly influential. He is director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and he heads the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. But more than that, he was a chief architect of ObamaCare.

His devaluation of old age is a huge warning sign pointing to public policies featuring the notion that elderly people don’t need to live past a certain point. If likeminded people get their way, writes National Review’s Wesley J. Smith, then “it won’t be so much about choosing not to receive expensive care after 75, but being unable to get it even if that’s what you want.”

Surely this can’t happen, not in America. Not after being told that more Americans have access to better health insurance than ever before. Not after being told that premiums for average households would go down. And certainly not after Barack Obama himself declared that if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor. But what if we’re told when we can see our doctor? If the recent findings of the Veterans Administration in Phoenix are any indication as to what the waiting list might look like for our entire nation under government run health care – and we think they absolutely are – then we’re in serious trouble.

Regarding the deaths of up to 40 veterans, Inspector General Robert Griffin stated in a recent report, “I think that in our report a careful reading shows they might have lived longer or had a better quality of life” if there had not been delays in care. If veterans have to wait for care and treatment, then what will the wait for tens of millions of people look like under ObamaCare? Will those who have “lived long enough” be moved down the list to make room for younger people?

Bureaucrats can’t make the best choices for you and your family. Individuals should have the freedom to choose which doctor they see and what (if any) treatment to receive (and when to receive it) based on advice from their doctor and family members. Public policies that deny this choice not only devalue life, but deny it. Denying life is one of most egregious crimes against society that a government can commit, and we the people cannot tolerate it.

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