Must We Loose This Mortal Coil at 75?

Posted: Sep 29, 2014 3:46 PM
My mother took up golf in her 69th year. She had a terrible grip since she was missing her left thumb. It had become infected prior to the discovery of penicillin and was amputated.

She played golf for more than 15 years on the 9-hole course in Deer River, Minnesota. We bought her a golf cart for her 80th birthday which made her a heavily recruited partner. Those were some the best years of her life. She died at 89.

This all came to mind when I saw Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel’s appearance on Morning Joe. He discussed an article he wrote in the September issue of Atlantic in which he said that he did not want to live beyond the age of 75 and implied that the rest of us shouldn’t either.

He pointed out that one-third of all people over the age of 85 suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and noted the high cost the elderly impose on our health system and how little is produced by people above the age of 75.

Not included in the discussion was the mechanism by which wise and beneficent bureaucrats were going to accomplish this goal. Surely it will be humane.

Zeke Emanuel is the brother of President Barack Obama’s first Chief of Staff, Rham Emanuel. Zeke had a major role in designing Obamacare and was prominent in its defense as the rollout stumbled.

I expect he authored the provision for doctors to be reimbursed for counseling us on end of life decisions.

Zeke did not originate the notion that life should be limited. I stumbled upon it years ago as a proposal from Dr. Francis Crick of Great Britain. Crick shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 with Dr. James Watson of the United States. In 1953 they had discovered and explained the double helix structure of deoxyribonucleic acid.

DNA is the “secret of life.” I was surprised when, years later, Crick suggested that people’s lives should be ended at 80 since they were no longer productive and were very costly. Crick died of cancer at 88.

My mother is not the only person who would have lost some her best years to elitist bureaucrats who know best how to arrange our society.

Grandma Moses took up painting in her 70s. She spent her entire life on a farm and as farm work became too difficult she turned to embroidery. At the age of 76 arthritis ended her embroidery career and she started painting.

First showing her work in the window of the drug store in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., her bucolic scenes of rural life reminded people of happy times. Her first one-woman show was in New York City when she was 79. Grandma Moses died in December 1961 at 101 years of age. In 2005 one of her paintings, “Sugaring Off,” sold for $1.2 million.

Colonel Harland Sanders tried many jobs over his years including being a ferryboat operator, a railroad worker, an aspiring lawyer, an amateur obstetrician, an unsuccessful political candidate and, finally, a restaurant operator. At age 65 a new highway took away his restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky. Starting from scratch he began to build his Kentucky Fried Chicken empire.

I suspect if he lived in the wonderland world of ordered living he might confront a Zeke Emanuel looking not too kindly on KFC and putting limits on the amount of fried chicken that could be sold or eaten. Under those circumstances the Colonel may have been content to loose this mortal coil under the new management.

I admit that anecdotes cannot be the basis for policy decisions. I also suggest that one person deciding when another’s life has value is fraught with danger.

At the beginning of the 20th Century eugenics was the rage of the world of science and politics. Elitists deciding whose life had value was, you might say, “settled science.”

Rockefeller Foundation money helped to relocate the center of gravity in the study of eugenics from Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Germany. One of its first students was Dr. Josef Mengele. We know how that turned out.

The pseudoscience of eugenics taught us that very bright elitists could be captured by scientific fads that fade with the passage of time.

Researchers and agricultural interests spent years convincing us to substitute vegetable oils for fats. As the incidence of heart disease increased in exact correspondence with the increased sales of vegetable oil, we are rethinking the value of lard, which was consumed for most of our early history during which the incidence of heart disease was unremarkable.

My late father-in-law spent 6 days a week for over 20 years dreaming of the fried egg he would get on Sunday morning. Today he could fry a few every day.

So I intend to hold out beyond the next three years. I am sort of hidden away here in Myrtle, Ms. a good distance off the highway. I’ll keep my head down.