Who Decides on the Value of My Life?

You might have seen the infamous article about ‘Why I hope to die at 75,‘ revisited. If not, I suggest you read it.

Emmanuel’s proposition is that Americans live “too long” after 75. They burden the health care system, their families, and who knows what else.

He’s claiming to make this decision for himself. However, he’s not. When he doesn’t choose to maintain himself (physical and mental), he chooses for other people, too.

My problems with his argument:

  • He extends zero empathy to anyone not in perfect health, physically and emotionally.
  • People over 75 don’t contribute to society.
  • Staying healthy differs from extending life. (He’s talking about not maintaining his health, not heroic measures to extend life.)

What’s the problem with one more idiot sharing his views on aging? He happens to be a member of Biden’s virus task force.

I’m shaking my head at his stupidity.

I’m only 10 years from 75. I expect to continue writing, coaching, consulting for years. Why would I stop?

Emmanuel has made his decision for himself. I happen to think his decision is short-sighted. That’s his problem. However, I do think the question is a good question: How do we decide on the value of our lives? Let’s start with the greater society.

How Society Might Value Lives

I’m going to separate the value when allocating emergency health care and routine care.

If there’s a shortage of treatments, should we allocate those treatments to people who might live longer and have a greater chance of survival? Sure, I can live with that. (I hope!) It’s in our best society’s interests to skew to saving younger people who have the best chances of survival. I sure hope it doesn’t come to that.

What about routine care, where there’s no shortage of treatments? If I choose to take care of myself, why should society deny me care? Why can’t I get a flu shot (I did)? Why can’t I get physical therapy to help me stay strong and upright? (I do.) Why shouldn’t I get new glasses as I need them? (Soon!)

I don’t take anything away from other people when I keep myself strong and healthy.

I’m not sure what Emmanuel is thinking, but he seems to have a scarcity mindset. Assuming we don’t have to ration healthcare, why would he forego normal, routine maintenance? Especially when he might endanger other people? I don’t understand that.

How I Value My Life

Mark and I have discussed how we want to age. We’ve talked about heroic measures (no), and how to die as gracefully as possible. That said, we want to live well.

We exercise, eat as well as possible, and get our preventive maintenance in the form of flu shots, etc.

We still contribute to society, our town and various communities, and our family. (I want to live well, so I can continue making my children crazy.)

That’s how I think of valuing my life:

  • Can I still contribute to some other set of people?
  • Does that contribution demand other people give up too much of their lives?
  • Am I taking resources that would be better spent on someone younger with more of their life ahead of them?

If you, as I do, have a permanent handicap/disability, these conversations might challenge you. However, thinking and talking through your choices will serve you better than just choosing a date to stop managing your health.

Mr. Emmanuel is entitled to his own stupid opinion. I don’t have to share that opinion.

That’s the question this week: Who decides on the value of my life?

2 thoughts on “Who Decides on the Value of My Life?

  1. Marsha

    Johanna. I read that article. Twice. As a direct result of the second reading, I made my way to Joe Biden’s official Facebook page, scrolled down to where the announcement from a few days ago is about the formation of the Covid-19 task force, and wrote this:

    “Dear President-Elect Biden, I really think you should reconsider the appointment of of Ezekiel Emmanuel to the Covid-19 Task Force. I give as my principle argument the fact that his stated (and re-stated) assertions that people ought to be willing to die at or around age 75 are at direct odds with the goal of saving lives.

    “By his reckoning and statements, you’re in the “get-ready-to-go” segment of our population.

    “Here’s the link to the interview and transcript:

    I cannot possibly agree more with you than I do. AGEISM is an -ism that needs addressing in this society just like all the other -isms. Let’s ask him to address it by not rewarding it with a Task Force membership, shall we?

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