UN Health Goals Declared Ageist by Academics
Academics have expressed concerns that new medical targets proposed by the United Nations are unethical. The proposal is aimed at reducing premature deaths from cancer, stroke and dementia, but has been deemed ageist by many because of its focus on people under the age of 70.
In a letter published in the Lancet last week, academics warned that the UN plan prioritises the care of younger patients and, in doing so, renders elderly patients as “second-class citizens”. They stressed that the implications of the plan are that resources should be diverted from older people in order to meet the UN’s reduced premature mortality goals.
The letter states that the concept of premature mortality “has the potential to undermine cherished fundamental principles of universality and health as a right for all. Put simply, it tells policy makers, particularly in poorer countries, that older people do not matter.”
“If adopted, this UN target could lead to institutionalised discrimination against older people in healthcare, both here in the UK and globally,” says former director of Age UK, Baroness Greengross. “This target will inevitably reinforce the ageist bias that pervades many aspects of healthcare decision-making.”
“This premature mortality target is highly unethical, since it unjustifiably discriminates against older people,” says the letter’s lead author Professor Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, an expert in social policy and international development at the University of East Anglia. “We already know that there is age discrimination in cancer care and surgery, and these targets give that the stamp of approval. The targets are not quite set in stone yet, so we have a final opportunity to impress upon the UN the need to alter this explicitly ageist target.”