In an effort to cut carbon emissions from burials and cremations, the state of Washington, led by staunch environmentalist Governor Jay Inslee, became the first U.S. state to legalize human composting. To think, people can be criminally prosecuted for disrespecting a human corpse, a symbol of a once-living person. But the religion of Mother Earth now supersedes all cultural decency.
We’ve already cemented the contempt for life at the front end. I thought we had evolved since the ancient Greek elders determined that only the strong newborns survived and the weak were left to die. Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam made it clear that infants were once again throwaways at will. In explaining the procedure of an “abortion” of a child who was born alive, he said “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Now we must be acutely aware of what is happening at the other end of life’s spectrum. In the U.S., elders are all too often considered expendable by society at large and sadly, by their own families. Such disregard in some 10 million cases escalates to abuse in many forms. Government-certified entities make a significant contribution to this contemptible crime.
In many states court-appointed guardians cravenly plunder their wards’ assets with no repercussions. A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report identified hundreds of allegations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation by guardians in 45 states and the District of Columbia between 1990 and 2010. An investigation of a small sampling of the allegations found that court-appointed guardians had stolen or otherwise improperly obtained $5.4 million from 158 incapacitated victims, mostly older adults. Moreover, such crimes were frequently overlooked by judges.
Soon after coming into office, President Trump signed into law the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act that provided for 90 prosecutors and “elder justice coordinators” nationally to prosecute those committing elder abuse, including guardianship cases. Currently, a sleepy little bill in the wings, the Stamp Out Elder Abuse Act, will direct the proceeds of a new postage stamp to enforcing laws against elder abuse.
These new laws may be for naught with the advent of more physician-assisted suicide laws. New Jersey is the latest, complete with a cute acronym: MAID – Medical Aid in Dying. All the calls for government-controlled medicine are terrifying to those of us who remember a dystopian film where in 2022, with rampant food shortages and homelessness, the only food available is a high-energy wafer purportedly made from plankton. Alas, we witness humans entering a processing center for a happy death and emerging as the main ingredient of Soylent Green.
I contend that the trend of placing older people into hospice before the ink is dry on the hospital admission papers is a new form of elder abuse. Hospice has become the new Medicare cash cow for unscrupulous facility owners who abuse and neglect patients. One study found that 8 percent of the hospices studied did not provide a single skilled visit—from a nurse, doctor, social worker, or therapist—to any patients who were receiving routine home care in the last two days of life in 2014.
Recall that President Obama robbed Medicare of $716 billion to fund the Affordable Care Act, including $56 billion from hospitals serving poor people. Recall that an ethics advisor for ObamaCare, Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, advocates for the “Complete Lives System” of medical care where resources are directed to those with “future usefulness.” Dr. Emanuel proudly claims he wants to die at 75 years of age. Tell that to the countless lives Mother Teresa transformed when she was her 80s. Tell that to John Glenn, who went back into space for 9 days at 77, and to the 20 million other over-75 disposables—or should I say, recyclables.
Quite coincidentally, eliminating the over-75 crowd from the insurance pool would help fund government-sponsored insurance for this country’s remaining uninsured. In other words, hurry up and die before the Medicare program goes bankrupt.
My gratitude goes to those congresspersons who recognize that our elders need protection. Given that the federal trust fund that finances much of the Medicare program is projected to run out in 2026, let’s hope these compassionate people realize that the first losers of Medicare for All are our elders.
Dr. Singleton is a board-certified anesthesiologist and president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). She graduated from Stanford and earned her MD at UCSF Medical School. While still working in the operating room, she attended UC Berkeley Law School, focusing on constitutional law and administrative law. She interned at the National Health Law Project and practiced insurance and health law. She teaches classes in the recognition of elder abuse and constitutional law for non-lawyers.