In 1976, a futuristic cinema experience promised a life full of pleasure with just one catch — when you turned 30 years old, the life-clock crystal in your palm turned red, you were on your last day, and unless you wanted to head to the “Carrousel” for vaporization and “renewal,” you had to run.  While “Logan’s Run” may not have been the greatest sci-fi film ever made (“The Empire Strikes Back,” anyone?) it possibly is the reason that no one wants to admit they are a day over 29.  Recently, a new number has been thrust into the medical consciousness as another option for the last year of enjoyable life.  That number is 75, which has been proposed by Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel as his choice for leaving planet Earth for good or refusing further medical care.  See the article in The Atlantic.

The premise, according to Dr. Emanuel, goes something like this: living too long is a bad thing for him, because all the great accomplishments are done by the time the diamond jubilee comes around.  Given that Dr. Emanuel trained at Harvard and likely would have been a New England sports fan, he must have calculated that someone being born on one of the worst days in American history (Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929) and having lived exactly 75 years, would have seen the Boston Red Sox win the World Series (October 27, 2004, one of the greatest days in American history) with one day to spare.  What could be any better than that?  Or, Dr. Emanuel may have a fear (or healthy viewpoint?) of decreasing physical and mental capability, choosing not to vote with the American “immortals.”  He brings up the discussion of “compressing morbidity” and regenerative medicine, a topic that will be covered in detail at next month’s Annual Assembly of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in San Diego.  A 2012 study by the Harvard School of Public Health counters the compression of morbidity theory by showing that, in fact, there is actually an expansion of morbidity occurring as the world population ages, leading to more years living with poorer health.  One-third of all Americans over the age of 85 living with Alzheimer’s disease?  Fuggeddaboudit …

This article has even prompted a resolution (Addendum #009, uh, the Beatles impersonating James Bond?) at next month’s 2014 American Medical Association Interim Meeting, which encourages the AMA to “Proclaim Its Support for HealthCare for All Regardless of Age.”  Dr. Emanuel is not endorsing his viewpoint for anyone else, nor is he recommending euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.  Longevity versus quality of life.  Preventative care versus dying with dignity.  It’s enough of a discourse to warrant a drink of some type.  Has anyone seen my kombucha?  I know I left it here somewhere…

Regards,

Stuart J. Glassman, MD

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Comments

Brought a smile to my face on an otherwise seriously busy day. Great essay.

On the year of Zeke's 75th birthday I would gladly suggest to him to attend the Keene Pumpkin Festival for some fun and dancing and whatever. :-)