Wasting The Elderly: Coronavirus And The Calculus Of Death

The director of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has welled-up because of it.  In March, he feared that the world’s elderly citizens risked being marginalised in any pandemic policy.  “If anything is going to hurt the world, it is moral decay.  And not taking the death of the elderly or the senior citizens as a serious issue is moral decay.”

The elderly have, along with other categories of doomed vulnerability, found themselves centre stage in this epidemiological play of death.  They feature in morbidity reports across the globe.  They are designated objects of state charity to be protected in some cases, shunned in others.  Often, they are abandoned, left to perish alone, with only medical staff for company, if that.

In March, the theme of abandonment featured strongly in accounts from Spain, where choices on the elderly, cruel and desperate, were made.  Retirement homes had become bits of paradise for coronavirus transmission.  Staff, poorly equipped and terrified, neglected and ignored their obligations.  During the course of disinfecting various care homes, the country’s military made alarming discoveries.  Residents were abandoned; others were found dead in bed.  Spanish Defence Minister Margarita Robles promised that the government would be “strict and inflexible when dealing with the way older people are treated”.

In Australia, the picture was repeated.  In Victoria’s second coronavirus surge, dead aged care residents were left in their beds at various aged care facilities across Melbourne for hours on end.  An already rotten system was shown to be putrefying.  Professor John Moloney, an emergency field doctor, came up with the understatement of the moment.  “What it shows is that there are significant pockets of society that are very vulnerable and it doesn’t take much to tip them over.”  It did not take long for squabbles to take place: the Victorian state government, already troubled by a failed quarantine system, sniping with the Commonwealth government, which wields general control over the aged care system.

The federal health minister, Senator Richard Colbeck, has come across as a ditherer of some note.  His expertise, and lack of interest in his portfolio, is commensurate with his lack of interest in seniors.  When asked the obvious question by a parliamentary inquiry as to how many elderly residents had died from coronavirus, he remained untroubled by knowledge. It took 35 seconds of awkward silence as he rifled through his documents.

Labor Senator Katy Gallagher would not wait: 254, as of the morning of Thursday, August 20.  Her colleague, Penny Wong, had come to the conclusion that the minister was resolutely incompetent.  “You know,” she explained on the ABC news channel on August 26, “I sit in the Senate every day with this bloke … I would not trust the care of my parents to him.”

Galloping diseases unveil accepted hypocrisies.  In reaching judgement on the impact of COVID-19, some world leaders have suggested a calculus at play. In a March 22 interview, Ukraine’s former health minister Illia Yemets obtusely advised the government to focus on those “who are still alive” – those above 65 were nothing better than “corpses”.

Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro has also gone for the fatalist line.  He pleads the case for the hungry poor and unemployed – the economy first, in other words – even as he minimises the effect of a lethal virus that disproportionately harms them.  Towards the end of March, he laid bare his morgue-driven logic.  “I’m sorry, some people will die, they will die, that’s life.”  The same went for his old mother, a lady aged in her nineties.  Car factories should not stop, he argued, “because of traffic deaths.”

In the United States, the business interest remains in perennial battle against that of health.  The pro-economic faction in the Trump administration remains strong while such establishment voices as the New York Times argue “that a trade-off will emerge – and become more urgent in the coming months, as the economy slides deeper into recession.”

Tedros Ghebreyesus
The director of the World Health Organization Tedros Ghebreyesus

Industries do not stop because morgues fill.  Impetuously, Beppe Sala, the mayor of Italy’s economic engine, Milan, shared a video with the slogan “Milano non si ferma” (Milano does not stop) at the end of February.  The virus was not to be feared; the engine had to keep purring.  “We bring home important results every day because every day we are not afraid.  Milan doesn’t stop.”  The NSS Magazine was effusive in praise at such audacity and happy that the scaremongers had not won the day. The “mayor’s intervention demonstrated how the institutions must work in synergy with the private sector to avoid uncertainty about the future and to support the realities that have made Milan a European city.”

In a matter of weeks, Italy had become the next global epicentre of infection, passing China’s death toll from the virus.  Sala came to rue his enthusiasm.  “It was a video that went viral on the internet.  Everyone was sharing it, I also shared it, rightly or wrongly, probably wrongly.”

The calculus of death is something embraced by those who claim to be far sighted realists, wedded to a form of grim reaper choice theory.  Conservative, and not infrequently reactionary columnist for The Australian Janet Albrechtsen makes the case.  And she prosecutes it with considered callousness.  Writing in May, Albrechtsen offers a view not atypical to the spread sheet specialists who allocate resources and prioritise life.  In that world, the elderly are doomed.  “Government and policymakers are confronted by tough questions every day about where to spend money.”

She insists on speaking to doctors, though an unnamed “senior anaesthetist” is quoted as telling her that health decisions “are often shrouded in secrecy, but we don’t have unlimited resources to treat everyone to the maximum.”  A patient’s age becomes relevant in deciding, for instance, “who will get more years of life from a set of lungs or a new heart.”

Seeing humans as viable producers – and only that – leads to the endorsement of a particularly nasty streak of eugenics.  The Canadian, Oxford-based historian Margaret MacMillan, otherwise credited with being fairly liberal minded, makes the case that those over seventy “were not productive members of society, were not the people we need to get the economic engines going again, and we tend to be more vulnerable, so we should stay out of the way and let others get on with it”.  The productive will out; the elderly are merely needless intrusions.

Such needless intrusions can be disposed of.  Steel cold in reflection, a piece run in the British paper The Telegraph was not shy about suggesting as much, even as the death toll rose.  “Not to put too fine a point on it,” opined columnist Jeremy Warner, “from an entirely disinterested economic perspective, the COVID-19 might prove mildly beneficial in the long term by disproportionately culling elderly dependents.”  The virus could be congratulated.

Such mightily inhumane reasoning merely serves to ignore that old question of adequate resources and funding.  To that end, the global economy itself needs a grand post-pandemic refitting.  UN Secretary General António Guterres suggests “designing fiscal and monetary policies able to support the direct provision of resources to support workers and households, the provision of health and unemployment insurance, scaled up social protection, and support to businesses to prevent bankruptcies and massive job losses.”

When health becomes a matter of profit and Social Darwinian priorities; when the granting of medical services becomes a crude exercise of penny pinching because the tax dollars are not there, choices on survival assume an almost criminal form.  Harm and the risk of making them can be minimised.  Sentimentality need not come into it.  But COVID-19 has shown that human rights, and notably those of the elderly, are brittle before the march of pandemics, made worse by the desk bound policy maker and politicians captivated by bottom lines and budgets.

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  1. samir sardana

    Y is the USA.EU and UK not bothered,about the COVID deaths in their part of the world ?

    Could it be that they want it ? Who are the dead ? The dead are the pensioners, and the persons,who are fatally sick.dindooohindoo

    The gainer in every combo,is the West – which makes one wonder,how the COVID magically mutated in its new avatar.

    Posit No.1

    Assuming that these dead persons in the West,had a residual life of 15 years. WE HAVE 1.2 MILLION DEAD IN EU AND 500000 DEAD IN USA

    The pension to a pensioner,would not be less than 30,000 USD per annum, on an average,at the minimum.In addition, the medical and other social costs,on an aged pensioner,would be not less than another 20,000 USD per annum.

    IWITH 1.7 MILLION DEAD DUE TO COVID,THEN ,if the West saves 50,000 USD per annum, you net USD 85 Billion,PER ANNUM – which will be around 2 Trillion for 15 years

    One could argue that the US Fed just printed,the USD 85 Billion – but now it need not.The Youth in the west,had to work at high rates of tax and deductions – to finance the aged pension and health care benefits – which ultimately,led to outsourcing.

    The scam would be shocking,if the dead,had no insurance ! That would be telling ! If 1,7,00,000 are dead,with insurance and an average insurance claim,of USD 1,00,000 – then you have a bomb – to wipe out the insurers.

    If 10 million die – we are looking at net savings of USD 500 billion per annum and USD 8 Trillion over 15 years.This will also solve the health insurance problems in the US/EU,as the high claim insurers,will cease to exist – and thus lower the insurance costs,for the young,and the cost of labour in manufacturing.

    If the aggregate savings on pensions and medical costs are USD 100,000 per annum,then on 10 million dead,we have a saving of USD 1 trillion per annum,as a perpetual annuity (which is the minimum target – I suspect) – as the strategem ,is to kill people,with co-morbidities – and these are the people,who are a burden on the medical and pension infrastructure.

    So the private LIFE insurers,take a 1 time HIT,in terms of claims paid out – and the state,gets a recurring benefit,in terms of pensions and health care costs – of which,some of the gains of the state,are passed back to the insurers,to offset the claim losses (and keep insurance rates low),and some of the gains to the state, are passed back to the residual young population,to reduce the rates of medical and life insurance.

    Posit No.2

    WITH 10 MILLION DEAD -ALSO DIES DEMAND – AND SO A Large number of services and industries,in the west,will die out.That will release labour and reprice resources and rents – to drastically lower costs – and that will make,”Make in USA”, viable (as the social security and labour costs will reduce – DRASTICALLY )

    How will the state finance the loss of tax revenue and GDP.Ultimately,the state will have to demonetise the deposits, in banks, of the westerners.Simple ! The USA will not be able to demonetise the PRC holdings of US T-bills – not even if the PRC sinks a US aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.

    Posit No.3

    All the nations who borrowed loans from PRC – will now force the PRC to do debt write offs.That will be a huge loss to the PRC,after the manufacturing shift from PRC to West.Post COVID,If 200 million people are unemployed in PRC – then you have Tiananmen – Part 2 – and then a PRC attack,on the Indian weasels, and US satellite states,like Taiwan.and new stooges like Vietnam.

    Of Course,the PRC could also force the IMF,and the WB,to waive loans – but the harm to the PRC,will be done 1st.

    Posit No.4

    With massive unemployment in the West – the migrants will exit..They will exit.That will solve the migrants problem,rents and property rates will fall,labour will reprice,and the Westerners,will have to,start to work

    Posit No.5

    What has the WEST LOST ?


    The Big Picture

    The West has to take a BIG PICTURE view.South East Asia and Indian and Nepal ,are over populated,and there is no humanity there.There is no sentience,in the “so called humans”.They are robots – and 80% of them,have to die.Their time is over – they are obsolete, a dead weight,and a burden on earth.This will de-price the resources sector,lower demand,and solve the environment problem,forever.

    Africans have been exploited,for at least ,2000 years – and they deserve,many more chances.

    The Rationalisation of the Human Race

    There are 3 simple steps

    Are the “so-called humans” – having a “sentience” – to be assessed based on their “individual and collective actions”
    If not,then they are “robots”
    It is time to “terminate the robots”

    It is the moral and ethical solution.They are redundant and obsolete,and there is no purpose served,by their existence.Nations in Asia,will not be able to feed or employ these worms,and that will cause strife.hate,violence, genocide,jingoism and the rise of right wing=demagogic demonic dictators – and then, catacylysmic wars – which will ultimately,harm the West. Anywhich way,the robots will be purged – Virus is better than nukes – for the bots,and the environment.

    The COVID antibodies,will ultimately reside in 7 billion people,and those,are the receptors,of the next,”terminal bio-weapon” which will hook on those humans, and then based on a mix of the DNA,Genes,latitudes and morbidities – terminate the robots.

    It is all evolution – on the path to salvation !

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