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Margie's Post on Dying at 75

sbressi's picture

Ezekial Emmanuel  is a polemecist from a famous Jewish family of siblings  (his brother was Obama’s  White House Chief of Staff and  is now the mayor of Chicago) who was previously who were raised to debate.  These guys cut their political teeth on each other when they were still in diapers.   They know how to pick an edge of a controversial topic and exploit it. 

In this case, Emmanuel obviously sophisticated about drawing media and public attention his position as head of the Clinical Bioethics at Penn and at the National Institute for Health.   I would guess that his primary purpose in writing this article is to stir up the American conversation about aging and autonomy, and help to set the stage in popular culture for a shift of focus away from “life-sustaining interventions” toward more acceptance of death with comfort and awareness – a tough sell for Americans who are accustomed to last minute saves in their emergency room of choice.

Emmanuel is also giving a boost to the nascent right-to-die movement which is gathering steam in this country, without openly stating the case.  Three states have Death with Dignity Laws – Oregon, Washington, Vermont and several more have introduced legislation (including Pennsylvania) .  As myself and the millions of other boomers shift out of middle age, more states will undoubtedly fall in line behind these four.

Ezekial is defining human capacity in terms of productivity and contribution.  That’s where he is now.  But in ‘older old’ age, shifting attention inward is the natural course of development.  For a self admitted super active guy like Emmanuel ,“functional limitation” might be a terrifying thought.  At this age,  he is not inclined to consider the value of a spiritual journey that would outweigh any functional limitation that he might experience or suffer through.   I think it’s this spiritual capacity of human life that Emmanuel needs to honor more.  This is the aspect of life that allows people to actually accept death rather than fight it.  Perhaps Emmanuel is allowing his fear, rather than his faith, to govern the debate.