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Why I hope to die at 75.
Contributor: Ioannis Georgiopoulos
Origin/Affiliation: Greek Consortium for Geriatric Medicine
By Ezekiel J. Emanuel
Ezekiel J. Emanuel is an oncologist, a bioethicist, and a vice provost of the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author or editor of 10 books, including Brothers Emanuel and Reinventing American Health Care.
I haven’t thought about the age when I want to die, and probably most of us haven’t as well. We are too busy, daily trying to help our patients escape their ultimate fate, or at least trying to make their end as dignified and painless as possible. Then we go home, to our personal lives, and try to balance the needs for family, rest, and entertainment.
But this article made me stop and consider this very basic question, central to Geriatrics and to every individual's life-plan. When do you want to die? What will you do when the time comes for decisions that will affect your final days, weeks, months or years?
Give yourself ten minutes to read this article, and agree or disagree with the author’s central point-- it is not that he wants to actively take measures to die at 75, but rather to not take measures that may prolong his life beyond 75. These include any preventive testing, diagnostic examinations, and any therapeutic care except for palliative care. Would you be ready to give up antibiotics if you were 75 and had a simple pneumonia or a sinus infection? How about not taking your annual flu vaccines, or the new coronavirus vaccine? Refusing surgery for a potentially curable tumor, but that may take your life if left untreated? Are you ready to consider that 2055 may be your last year alive? How will you use your remaining 30-40 years if you make up your mind to die at 75?
I haven’t made up my mind about any of these issues, and I have read this article 3 times already. However, I now try to remind myself of this perspective, that some patients may take this point of view, and that perhaps I may do so in the future.
I invite you all to reflect upon these points, and think about the implications for yourselves, your loved ones, your patients and ultimately Geriatrics itself.
Perhaps it is really better to die at 75?
Photo by Kathy Jones from Pexels