CW: Ageism, & Ableism:
Yesterday I read an article written in October 2014 by Ezekiel J. Emanuel after seeing it on my Twitter feed. Emanuel is an oncologist and a former member of President Biden’s COVID-19 transition team.
He was the founding chair of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) department of bioethics, a position he maintained until August 2011. In addition, he was a special adviser on health policy to the head of the Office of Management and Budget and the National Economic Council until January 2011.
In the article, he discusses why he wishes to die at 75. As someone with Cerebral Palsy, I found Emanuel’s perspective difficult to understand. Emanuel argues that aging renders most people disabled or at least frail, and in turn changes how people view us.
Cerebral Palsy is a lifelong disability. It will never go away no matter how long I live. A disability or illness doesn’t mean that somebody can’t enjoy life. I have traveled to Cape Cod, Maine, Florida, and Washington, D.C., all while living with CP. I hope to travel more in the future. Eventually, I want to take a trip to my birthplace of, Kolkata, India as well.
He also argues that age-related disabilities prevent people from contributing to society and working. I know many disabled people who are writers, public speakers, volunteers, entrepreneurs, wives, husbands, and parents. People contribute to society in many different ways, not just employment.
Self-worth is not tied to employment. I have received disability benefits for the past seven years and have often been told I am lucky. Society tends to see people who can’t work as lazy. We all have something to offer the world regardless of age or ability.
His perspective on functional limitations, however, was more disappointing to me than anything else. He talks about how people take up hobbies such as birdwatching, listening to books, and pottery when their physical abilities begin to decline.
Cerebral Palsy limits my physical abilities and I’ve always enjoyed more intellectual hobbies such as reading and writing. E-books make reading more accessible to me. I have used a program called Bookshare since I was in elementary school. I also enjoy watching movies, following my favorite sports teams, and researching different topics online.
Everybody deserves to live a meaningful life regardless of age, or disability. Life doesn’t have to stop just because you are older or have a disability. People of all ages can attend school, work, and participate in community activities if they have the proper support. Nobody should be isolated, and separated from their community.
Emanuel, Ezekiel J. “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 15 Oct. 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/10/why-i-hope-to-die-at-75/379329/.
Goodnow, Natalie. “Biden’s Dangerous Covid Taskforce Pick Says Living Too Long Is a Loss.” The Hill, Nexstar Media Group, 16 Nov. 2020, https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/526128-bidens-dangerous-covid-taskforce-pick-says-living-too-long-is-a-loss/.
“Zeke Emanuel.” Center for American Progress, Center for American Progress, 7 Nov. 2021, https://www.americanprogress.org/people/emanuel-zeke/.