This Person Hopes to Die at 75, Encourages us to Not Live Forever

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It might sounds odd, but a preplanned death at 75 may be a wise decision. Ezekiel J. Emanuel has made a conscious decision to have his life come to a close when he reaches 75 (or at least that’s what he hopes) for a multitude of reasons. He notices that the quality of life deteriorates faster after that age and that perhaps it’s best to leave this earth before a health crisis cause him to be unable to participate actively in life. Why is this good?

Reflecting on one’s existence is always a good thing, thinking about how our life decisions impact others is always a good thing, and looking at historical trends is good too. Emanuel has clearly put a lot of thought into this and wants all of us to consider the impact of living has on our own mental health, those around us, and the health of the planet.

What are those reasons? Let’s begin with demography. We are growing old, and our older years are not of high quality. Since the mid-19th century, Americans have been living longer. In 1900, the life expectancy of an average American at birth was approximately 47 years. By 1930, it was 59.7; by 1960, 69.7; by 1990, 75.4. Today, a newborn can expect to live about 79 years. (On average, women live longer than men. In the United States, the gap is about five years. According to the National Vital Statistics Report, life expectancy for American males born in 2011 is 76.3, and for females it is 81.1.)

In the early part of the 20th century, life expectancy increased as vaccines, antibiotics, and better medical care saved more children from premature death and effectively treated infections. Once cured, people who had been sick largely returned to their normal, healthy lives without residual disabilities. Since 1960, however, increases in longevity have been achieved mainly by extending the lives of people over 60. Rather than saving more young people, we are stretching out old age.

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