I was recently reading an article written by a guy who said he wanted to die at 75 years old.
I thought for sure I was going to disagree with every bit of the article. There were definitely parts that I didn't agree with, such as foregoing some basic cancer screening. (I think I would do anything to keep from dying of colon cancer.) I don't agree with the basic philosophy, that once you slow down significantly, life is not worth living. Plenty of people over 75 have wonderful and worthwhile lives, even if they can't do with they could do when they were 30.
That said, with the aging population, I do think medical treatment to people over 75 (to set an arbitrary cut off) should be limited.
I do think the elderly should have access to antibiotics, flu shots, and medications, and should see physicians frequently. But nobody in their 80s should be allowed to be full code. It just doesn't make any sense in terms of expected recovery. Furthermore, I think cancer treatment should be palliative only at that point. Any major surgeries, such as a bypass surgery, should be avoided. Nobody over that age should be allowed to have a trach or feeding tube. The chances of recovering and having a reasonable quality of life after these interventions is just not high enough to justify it. Frankly, I think it's just cruel to the patients, in addition to being a waste of medical resources.
The most important thing is that the decision ought to be taken out of the hands of the patient or family members. It feels so ridiculous when we ask a 90-year-old if they want to be full code. A lot of the time, the patient or family will say yes, because they just don't understand what it means. They think not being full code means we won't treat their family member, but what it really likely means is it their family member will not have to die on a ventilator. Or alternately, they do understand what it means, but feel guilty making any other decision. I am still angry with my mother for putting my grandmother through a "life prolonging" surgery instead of withdrawing care when the doctor essentially told her there was no chance of recovery, but she said she felt guilty doing anything else.
For starters, I think everybody over the age of 80 should automatically be DNR. And we should seriously consider what other medical interventions should be offered to people who most likely won't benefit from it.