Opting Out of Health Care

More and more older people are opting out. They’re opting out of complicated, costly, painful, and often very stressful treatments and medical regimes that may prolong a life but that can easily be difficult and/or costly to experience. Some are foregoing any and all treatments, including the simplest forms of medications and treatments.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, world-renowned oncologist and one of the architects of Obamacare, has spoken about his decision to not seek any kind of medical intervention including testing, therapies, and even pain meds after the age of seventy-five, ten years from now. He believes by the age of seventy-five, elders become not only a drain on medical resources, a burden on family and society, but also become feeble and needy. It’s his belief that, by that age, we are no longer the person we were the majority of our lives and will mainly be remembered for how we survived in the last few years of our life. Therefore, if he develops a life-threatening illness at seventy-five or beyond, he will not seek treatment and instead will just let the disease kill him. 

Dr. Emanuel feels there is a lack of dignity when aging past seventy-five. He also feels that, while our lifespans have increased, so has the number of unhealthy years. We thus become, for a longer time, a drain on limited medical resources, resources that might help others. I don’t hear this doctor advocating for others to agree with his stance on the decision to opt out earlier. I hear him stating what he’s going to do for himself (much to his family’s chagrin, I understand). He only puts the idea out there for others to consider.

His opinions, while they represent solid views for himself, are controversial and not easily accepted by many of us elderly people. I realize the lifespan of Americans has jumped and that places a burden on medical resources. This idea about refusing any medical intervention, including pain meds, came about for Dr. Emanuel back in 2014. So, he’s had years to live with his choice, and there’s a good chance he’ll have another several years before he might have to change his mind. It isn’t a game or a trick to entertain for Dr. Emanuel. It’s a heartfelt opinion that living past seventy-five “…robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world.” He hopes to remain in good shape until he’s seventy-five so he can die while he is still healthy and vibrant.

How do you feel about refusing any medical treatment by seventy-five? Is this something you’re likely to incorporate into the end of your days?