I have cautiously written about assisted suicide and euthanasia only twice before, on 22 March 2010 – “Lucy died today” and then again on 6 May 2011 – ” A Die-Lemma”. It is not a subject of rights and wrongs, so much as one with endless shades of grey. Our ageing population is increasingly being described as a problem, euthanasia is an issue not far from the surface, but seldom spoken about.
Holland has a much more open discussion about assisted suicide and more liberal laws (though not necessarily better ) on euthanasia. Advocates of the laws suggest euthanasia is a suitable way of dealing with dementia and avoiding suffering —– and expensive health care.
The supposed safeguard is that to “qualify” for euthanasia you must convince two doctors that you are suffering unbearably and that you are making an informed choice. An informed choice when you are demented must be difficult to say the least.
Last year in Holland 2,700 people chose to die this way – 21 of them with dementia. It’s surprising that only 21 of the people who chose to die had dementia, because out of 2,700 people, most of whom you could reasonably assume would be elderly, at least 500 of them would probably be expected to develop dementia. The implication of this is presumably very few of the 2,700 made a living will expressing their desire to die and only made their final decision when they became frail. I wonder if these are the right circumstances to make such a decision ?
The economic burden is society’s or the family’s, not a forgetful elderly resident. How long will it be before the pressure of getting old with dementia makes many more people reach for the same “final solution”.
Why not extend the argument on economic grounds to include many more chronic illnesses that affect older people? That would certainly save a lot on National Health Service costs.
Why two doctors ? Why not just one – how about Dr Harold Shipman – he certainly had plenty of prior experience and a clear motivation ?
Why not leave it to care assistants as suggested by North Essex PCT ? How long will it be before Beverly Allot is given a pardon and invited to carry on her idea of caring ?