Friday, February 12, 2010

Euthanasia, Suicide, Death Panels, Dementia, Sir Terry Pratchett

There has been quite a bit of buzz lately about expediting death in the event of Alzheimer's.
There are a few good reasons for this.
1. Consider the fact that Alzheimer's is now a household word. Most people in America and the Western World have heard of the disease. (see earlier blog posts)
2. Then in the United States throw in the current health care debacle. There is not enough money and resources to go around. Everyone needs health care, it is a right, NOT a benefit, hwo is going to pay for all this, the Democrats don't know what they are doing, the republicans don't care, etc etc etc.
It's so political.
Then we keep hearing about 'LIMITED RESOURCES' hmm, we don't have a cure for AD, the treatments are of limited efficacy.
Alzheimer's patients can't speak up for themselves too well. Families are too busy trying to survive and care for their loved ones with the disease.
so what the the head scratching and problem solving lead to?
Well lets go back to the old death with dignity debate. Everyone is scared of getting the disease. There is a little less shame around it. So we have more noteworthy people and families, celebrities talking about it.
Perhaps we should revisit assisted suicide, with limited resources and all.
I had a comment on a post the other day on Huffington Post about this very topic.
If a person with Alzheimer's forgets to eat the food in front of them is it time to die? The original article hinted that no nutrition may be a painless peaceful way to die.
Except it is not.
It sort of hurts to be starving to death even if you have Alzheimer's.
Now I am not being unreasonable here, I do not believe in IV's and insertion of feeding tubes when a person is at the end stages of Alzheimer's disease. But through most of the stages, a person with Alzheimer's still has feelings, right? They may not be able to cognitively express them.
Sometimes I think some of us worry about our pet's feeling more than our elderly. Of course the politically correct term for decades now has been "seniors".
We make fun of the elderly, we say "oh I was having a senior moment" the young and youthful often joke about Alzheimer's- as if they might never grow old.
We are at the point of abolishing the word "retarded" in our vocabulary, it is considered mean and very politically incorrect, we would not dare pick on a special needs child, or a person with a developmental disorder.
Do we pay that same respect, that politically correct carefulness to our elderly? -Maybe.
emerge Sir Terry Pratchett, one of the most famous best selling writers in Great Britain. He has AD. He donated a lot of money to Alzheimer's research. He does not want to live through the stages, and envisions a more romantic way to die.
I suppose that is his choice.
Here is my fear, what if a young cool person, with no medical problems has a living will-really clear nice advance health care directives. They decide that if they get Alzheimer's and the first time they forget to eat, they would like to be put to death. A Facilitated death. Suicide. Perhaps by not putting any food in front of the person anymore. A passive facilitated death. -Or scary thought, a more active facilitated suicide.
Fine good, progressive thinking right? Totally Hip.
Well what happens when that living will, advance directive comes into play, and it just so happens that the person with moderate dementia, that forgot to eat, changes their mind. What if they now want to live? No one will believe them- they are not of sound mind and competence. They can't give informed medical consent. Perhaps the family could override, but what if there is no family or legal guardian. Then the state takes over,
"too bad Alzheimer's victim, you said you wanted to die, we have no resources and you are a drain, it does not matter if you want to live now. We have your advance directive written when you were competent."

Does anyone see or care where this is going?

Who gets to decide? Some judge? A Panel of medical ethicists?
Euthanasia means "painless" death incidentally.

I am not particularly hysterical, but stranger things have happened.

And what about all that "end of life counseling" doctors would be given incentives to provide. Wow. We have not heard much about that lately, but it will be back I am sure. With the limited resources and all.
I wish there was more buzz about cures and effective treatments, rather than killing our old people with AD, couching it in some vogue, elitist, intellectual debate. some cultures actually still honor their elderly, not the norm in the narcissistic youth and beauty driven western world.

1 comment:

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Talking about the book with the Lake Superior wind....... a calm day