“Why I Hope to Die at 75”

By  |  September 21, 2014 | 


Zeke Emanuel, well known oncologist, policy wonk, and eldest brother of Rahm (Mayor of Chicago) and Ari (Hollywood powerbroker), always has a way of garnering attention.

Published in the latest The Atlantic, Zeke pens a very provocative piece on when he plans on calling it a day.  In his case, age 75.  

From his mantle, the looming descent mark at seventy-five represents an age in which reflections of first-rate cognition and physical function from earlier years become too much to bear.  His message: stop all care–acute, preventative, and chronic.  The whole shebang.  He elaborates elegantly, and with facts, on how he arrived at his position.

I cant say I am fully on board with his thesis (along with many commenters), but the crux of his position will seem sound to most doctor and science-oid types.

In addition, he becomes quite reflective at times–and for those of us who have parents enrolled in Medicare (where physician visits become the norm), the below passage struck a chord:

Unless there has been terrible abuse, no child wants his or her parents to die. It is a huge loss at any age. It creates a tremendous, unfillable hole. But parents also cast a big shadow for most children. Whether estranged, disengaged, or deeply loving, they set expectations, render judgments, impose their opinions, interfere, and are generally a looming presence for even adult children. This can be wonderful. It can be annoying. It can be destructive. But it is inescapable as long as the parent is alive. Examples abound in life and literature: Lear, the quintessential Jewish mother, the Tiger Mom. And while children can never fully escape this weight even after a parent dies, there is much less pressure to conform to parental expectations and demands after they are gone.

You will want to read and pass the piece on to someone you know.  The essay will be a certain conversation starter.

Alternate takes. here, here, and here.  And here is Zeke on the NewsHour making his case.


  1. Bary September 22, 2014 at 10:23 am - Reply

    How civilized! Why can’t we be as gentle and humane as we are with our special four legged family. There is a time–perhaps different for each individual– when “going to sleep” is the best alternative. I hope I am lucid enough to know when I have had enough to not burden my family and abuse our healthcare system to just keep breathing. Life should be measured by life’s quality not by the quantity of years.

  2. Richard Lewis September 22, 2014 at 10:27 am - Reply

    Poor Zeke. Obviously blessed with the prototypical Jewish mother and I have known many evoking guilt and expressing unfulfilled expectations. Get over it, Zeke. I have and so have legion well adjusted people. 110 years old here I come. And Zeke? Shut up and Get back into therapy. You’re bad for our longevity.

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About the Author:

Brad Flansbaum
Bradley Flansbaum, DO, MPH, MHM works for Geisinger Health System in Danville, PA in both the divisions of hospital medicine and population health. He began working as a hospitalist in 1996, at the inception of the hospital medicine movement. He is a founding member of the Society of Hospital Medicine and served as a board member and officer. He speaks nationally in promoting hospital medicine and has presented at many statewide meetings and conferences. He is also actively involved in house staff education. Currently, he serves on the SHM Public Policy Committee and has an interest in payment policy, healthcare market competition, health disparities, cost-effectiveness analysis, and pain and palliative care. He is SHM’s delegate for the AMA House of Delegates. Dr. Flansbaum received his undergraduate degree from Union College in Schenectady, NY and attended medical school at the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. He completed his residency and chief residency in Internal Medicine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York. He received his M.P.H. in Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is a political junky, and loves to cook, stay fit, read non-fiction, listen to many genres of music, and is a resident of Danville, PA.


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