There are 35 million geriatric patients over age 65 in the United States. Of these, 4.5 million are over age 85 and are characterized as “old old.” By 2020, it is projected that there will be 53 million Americans over age 65; 6.5 million of whom will be “old old.”
Imagine the hospital sending you home with terminal bladder cancer, ruling that at age 78, you are just “too old to treat.” That is what Kenneth Warden experienced. If he received surgery or chemotherapy, perhaps his painful symptoms could be helped or even cured. That is exactly what his daughter, Michele Halligan, fought to achieve. She paid for him to by seen by a second doctor. That is how Kenneth received the drugs and surgery needed to cure his cancer. In the following four years, at age 82 he was working out at the gym, driving his sports car and competing on a rowing team! She claims that her father was “written off because of his age.”
Sadly, Kenneth’s story is not unusual. Each year, thousands of older people, not just in the U.S., need family members to fight for their rights. Many die while waiting for treatment.
Today, hospitals in America discharge Medicare patients quicker and sicker than ever before. In 1968, patients age 65 and older remained in the hospital an average of 14.2 days. By 1982, it was reduced to 10.1 days. Today, they remain in the hospital only 6.4 days. This is because Medicare is under pressure from Congress to cut costs. If a patient stays too long, the hospital has to pay the extra costs out of its own pocket. The shorter a patient stays, the more money the hospital gets to keep.
According to The Wall Street Journal, “Nearly one in five people admitted to hospitals with broken hips are discharged before all of their vital signs are stable. Those patients are far more likely to die or be readmitted to the hospital within two months.”
Many patients who have been awaiting organ transplants never will receive a transplant if they are over age 65, unless they have the money to pay for it, and even then, most organs are given to younger patients.
These actions are pure ageism. It is costing tens of thousands of lives a year, needlessly. It is discrimination against the aged, discrimination our founding fathers wished to eliminate when writing the Constitution. Hopefully, one day, we will be old, too, and if we are in need of medical treatment, hopefully we will be treated with more respect and dignity. Is this justice?
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