Americans are obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to prolong life as long as possible.
This is so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type that Prof Ezekiel Emanuel, director of the [b]Clinical Bioethics Department at the US National Institutes of Health[/b] and one of the architects of ‘Obamacare’, calls the ‘American immortal’. Emanuel, who opposes legalised euthanasia, nevertheless argues in [s]The Atlantic[/s] that for him, 75 will be a good age to check out.
‘It is true that compared with their counterparts 50 years ago, seniors today are less disabled and more mobile. But over recent decades, increases in longevity seem to have been accompanied by increases in disability—not decreases’ Health care hasn’t slowed the ageing process so much as it has slowed and elongated the dying process: ‘Death usually results from the complications of chronic illness—heart disease, cancer, emphysema, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes.’
‘Once I have lived to 75, my approach to my health care will completely change. I won’t actively end my life. But I won’t try to prolong it, either… I will stop getting any regular preventive tests, screenings, or interventions. I will accept only palliative—not curative—treatments if I am suffering pain or other disability.’
In an accompanying cover story, [s]The Atlantic[/s] notes that longer life expectancy may simply leads to more years in which pensioners are disabled and demand expensive services, health-care costs may balloon as never before, while other social needs go unmet.
On the other hand, medical interventions and ‘the most-exciting work being done in longevity science concerns making the later years vibrant, as opposed to simply adding time at the end.’