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The Case Against Naming Ezekiel Emanuel to Lead the FDA

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Wesley J. Smith
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If you think Dr. Anthony Fauci is a controversial figure in the fight against COVID-19, you may not have seen anything yet. Politico — the Democrats’ favorite publication for leaking their future plans — just reported that President Joe Biden is seriously considering nominating bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This politically maladroit idea must be opposed. To be effective and inspire public trust, the head of the FDA should be an expert administrator with a reputation for non-ideological scientific integrity. Emanuel is not that man. Not only does he lack substantial administrative experience, but even more worrying, he is a hyper-partisan leftwing Democrat.

Emanuel is the brother of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, he of “never let a good crisis go to waste,” infamy, and is just as political as his sibling. He was a prime architect of the Affordable Care Act, a law about which the American people remain deeply divided.

Even more disruptively — both before and throughout the pandemic — Emanuel has pushed contentious bioethics policies that guarantee his nomination would be bitterly resisted by, among others, social conservatives, believers in religious liberty, advocates for the elderly, and those who reject the government telling them what to do.

How contentious are Emanuel’s views? Consider:

Emanuel Loves Vaccine Mandates

Emanuel called for vaccine mandates long before vaccine diktats were cool. In 2018, Emanuel demanded that every child in America to be forced to receive a flu shot every year. What was the urgent need for such a forceful policy? There wasn’t one. According to the CDC, the deadliest recent flu season only cost the lives of 186 children, tragic, but hardly a cause for panic.

COVID really got Emanuel’s mandate hormones churning. He has pushed government and private business mandates several times since the pandemic broke. For example, last April, he co-authored a piece in the New York Times stating: “Vaccines should be required for health care workers and for all students who plan to attend in-person classes this fall—including younger children once the vaccine is authorized for them by the Food and Drug Administration. Employers should also be prepared to make vaccines mandatory for prison guards, E.M.T.s, police officers, firefighters and teachers.” Good grief, even teachers unions oppose vaccine mandates for their members.

Emanuel Loves Economic Lockdowns

Back in the Spring of 2020, when the country was going off the economic cliff, Emanuel, urged that the economy be kept shuttered for 18-months—the time he wrongly suggested it would take to develop a vaccine (not a great look for a potential head of the FDA). He said in an interview that there could be no return to “the kind of normal where we go traveling, we go to restaurants, we go to concerts, we go to religious services, we go on cruises, until we have a vaccine that protects everyone.”

He was also the lead signatory of an open letter last summer, addressed to “Decision Makers” that wanted people forced to “stay home, going out only to get food and medicine or to exercise and get fresh air.” He even wanted to “bar non-essential interstate travel.” Good grief, there wasn’t that much suppression even during the Civil War!

Emanuel Disdains the Elderly

A few years ago, Emanuel wrote a notorious piece in The Atlantic in which he said he wanted to die at 75 — and strongly implied you should too. Why die by then?

He wrote, “Living too long…robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.” What a dismal opinion.

When the vaccine came out, instead of prioritizing those most likely to die from COVID — i.e., the elderly — he instead proposed a “Fair Priority Model” that would grant preferences based to younger people because “a premature death that prevents someone’s exercising their skills or realizing their goals later in life is worse than a death later in life.”

How could he support such ageism? Emanuel has long embraced what is known in bioethics as the “quality of life” ethic that devalues elderly people and those with disabilities. Thus, Emanuel has argued that health care services considered “basic” be societally guaranteed for the young and productive, but not for the seriously disabled and elderly.

He wrote, “Services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia. A less obvious example is guaranteeing neuropsychological services to ensure children with learning disabilities can read and learn to reason.” Yikes!

Emanuel Wants to Force Doctors to Perform Abortions

In keeping with his authoritarian tendencies, Emanuel co-authored a piece in the New England Journal of Medicine arguing that doctors should be required to perform any legal procedure for which a patient asked, so long as it is not controversial within the medical establishment — even if it violates the doctor’s religious beliefs.

Emanuel explicitly included abortion in that toxic-to-freedom prescription, writing that if doctors wish to refuse, they have “two choices: select an area of medicine, such as radiology, that will not put them in situations that conflict with their personal morality or, if there is no such area, leave the profession.”

Biden has been derelict in allowing the FDA to remain leaderless for the last 6 months. But I can’t image a foolhardier decision than nominating Emanuel for that position. Imagine the acrimony at committee confirmation hearings. Think about the acidic partisan nature of the final vote in the Senate.

And if he were able to be confirmed with zero or very few Republican votes, how would he be an effective administrator when half the country wouldn’t have confidence that he would provide dispassionate leadership?

If the Biden team leaked this idea to Politico as a trial balloon, it needs to be immediately popped with a big pin. Emanuel is not only the wrong man for the job, but his nomination would lead to even greater distrust than already exists in the fight against COVID.