Scapegoating the Aged

Western nations must resist the pressure to “scapegoat, abandon, even kill, the elderly as a cost-cutting measure,” an Australian bishop said in a major bioethics lecture. Bishop Anthony Fisher of Parramatta, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said health economists and utilitarian philosophers were placing the elderly at risk by treating them as a “swarm of voracious but unworthy consumers of a resource which doctors must guard from them.” Delivering the 2012 Anscombe Memorial Lecture on Oct. 15 at St John’s College, Oxford University, he accused health economists who focused disproportionately on costs of “showing us how to get most efficiently to the wrong place.” He said that as the number of people over age 65 rises, the strain on governments will increase proportionately. “Of course we need principles of fairness here and virtues like medical temperance,” the bishop said. “But to wish we were dead before we are old or that the old were dead so they’d stop burdening us is no anthem for a good society.”

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