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Fact check: AARP and Biden’s COVID-19 taskforce have not said people should only live until they are 75 years old

Social media users have been publishing posts claiming the virus committee created by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden does not think people should live past 75 years old and that Biden has been endorsed by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). AARP told Reuters, however, that it believes rationing care based on age would be discriminatory and that it had not endorsed any political candidate. One of the seven points on Biden’s COVID-19 plan is to protect older Americans.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The posts (here  ,  here) say: “AARP endorsed Biden. Biden’s virus Committee doesn’t think living past 75 is worth living. Will you renew your AARP membership since AARP says if you are past 75 you should just die and go away.” 

The AARP provides information, programs and services for Americans over the age of 50 through a paid membership (here) .  It has approximately 38 million members  (here).  

AARP ON AGE DISCRIMINATION

“Since the early days of the pandemic, AARP has warned policymakers on all sides that rationing of care based on age or disability is discriminatory.  Older people are not political pawns or less worthy to receive care or a vaccine than anyone else,” AARP spokesman Jason Young told Reuters via email.

In April AARP sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights saying that using age to exclude people from accessing treatment “violates existing federal law”, urging the department to “strongly oppose such discrimination.” (here)  

AARP ON POLITICAL ENDORSEMENT

Reuters has previously debunked claims that AARP endorsed Biden (here). The email from AARP’s Young said: “We have not endorsed candidates Biden or Trump or anyone else. AARP is a nonpartisan non-profit organization. AARP has a Board-approved policy against endorsing or appearing to endorse political parties, government officials or candidates for office.” The policy can be found here .  

AARP provided information on both the Trump and Biden campaigns on its website, as seen  here  . 

BIDEN’S COMMITTEE

On Biden’s website he outlines his plan to tackle COVID-19, with one point of his seven-point plan to “Protect Older Americans and Others at High Risk” (joebiden.com/covid19/  ,  joebiden.com/covid-plan/). Biden selected his coronavirus task force on Nov. 9 (here), made up of 13 members.  

The misinformation in the social media posts is likely to stem from comments made six years ago by one member of Biden’s coronavirus task force - Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. (here). In 2014, Dr Emanuel wrote a piece for The Atlantic called: “Why I Hope to Die at 75”, in which he said: “For many reasons 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop […] Once I have lived to 75, my approach to my health care will completely change. I won’t actively end my life. But I won’t try to prolong it, either.” (here)   

Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for Dr Emanuel, told Reuters via email that in the Atlantic article Dr Emanuel “explicitly states that he is only discussing his own personal choice as to what health interventions he would want as he ages.” His views in this article do not reflect Biden’s committee’s policy.

In the article, Dr Emanuel also says: “I am not saying that those who want to live as long as possible are unethical or wrong [...] I’m not even trying to convince anyone I’m right. Indeed, I often advise people in this age group on how to get the best medical care available in the United States for their ailments. That is their choice, and I want to support them.”

VERDICT

False. AARP confirmed to Reuters that it believes rationing care based on age is discriminatory and that AARP has not endorsed Biden. Biden’s COVID-19 plan specifically says it will protect older Americans.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here

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