- - Thursday, October 9, 2014

 “Here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: Living too long is also a loss. 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.”

— “Why I Hope to Die at 75,” Ezekiel J. Emanuel, The Atlantic Monthly.

Zeke Emanuel is not a kook. He’s not an outlier. And conservatives underestimate the power of his influence at their peril.

Mr. Emanuel is not only not a kook, he’s extraordinarily well-credentialed and well-connected. He directs the Clinical Bioethics Department at the U.S. National Institutes of Health and heads the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the brother of Chicago Mayor (and former Obama White House chief of staff) Rahm Emanuel. He was a key architect of and is now the pre-eminent academic defender of Obamacare.

So when he writes a provocative, 5,000-plus-word polemic on why he — and by extension the rest of us — should hope to die at 75 in order to ease the burden on family, friends and society, it can’t be written off as the ravings of a rogue intellectual. I’d even argue Mr. Emanuel has done us all a favor, making explicit the agenda that runs behind Obamacare and so many of the pet causes of the Left for a century or more. The goal is to make socially and politically acceptable ideas and policies that were once universally seen as morally repellent, from abortion and same-sex marriage to legalizing drugs and euthanasia. The means are political, and sometimes the goal takes decades to achieve, but the progressive ambition is always to move forward.

Mr. Emanuel insists in his piece that he is not endorsing euthanasia and assisted suicide, but that is the logical endpoint of his arguments. One can draw a straight line from the thinking behind “Why I Hope to Die at 75” to the death panels under Obamacare that will determine who among are senior citizens is worthy of quality care and who isn’t, who gets the hip replacement or the pacemaker and who doesn’t. There is a contempt for the weakest among us in Mr. Ezekiel’s essay that is a hallmark of progressive politics. The elderly, the disabled, the unborn, those with terminal illnesses —all are seen as a drag on society’s resources and “undeserving” of society’s generosity.

(One can only wonder if the 57-year-old author would have written the same piece if he were 74.)

Consider the two policy prescriptions included in his piece. Rising life expectancy, he writes, should not be seen as a measure of the quality of life in a given society. (“Once a country has a life expectancy past 75 for both men and women, this measure should be ignored.”) And biomedical research can focus on treating chronic old-age diseases, but should make no effort to improve end-of-life care.

It’s easy to reject the narcissistic ethos behind this piece, the ideology that holds not all life is equally precious that the elderly, the disabled, the unborn have nothing to offer to society’s greater good; that virtues such as charity, selflessness, generosity and concern for the least among us are a sign of weakness. But as I say, conservatives and people of faith put themselves in danger when they underestimate the power for the Left of such ideas.

Despite Mr. Emanuel’s protestations, euthanasia, assisted suicide and a rejection of the sanctity of life constitute the next great political agenda item for the Left. It starts with Obamacare and the death panels, but it won’t end there. Those of us who value life cannot hide this time from what is going on, as happened too often in the past. Everyone must speak out, and there is no time to waste.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Emanuel has little to say — and nothing positive — about God in his piece, preferring to rest his arguments in Darwinian and natural terms. For it is in faith and religious values that we find the most powerful argument against “Why I Hope to Die at 75” and the progressive spirit behind it.

God values each human life more than his own. In our relationship with the Creator, we come to learn the virtues of sympathy, sacrifice and compassion for every one of His creatures, especially the most helpless ones at the beginning and end of life. God wants us to live each day to the fullest in service to Him and to each other — even if we’re past our 75th birthday.

Tom DeLay, a former congressman from Texas and House majority leader from 2003 to 2005, writes a weekly column for The Washington Times and www.washingtontimes.com.


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