The first case has been reported of a British person electing to end his own life at the Dignitas facility in Zürich (Switzerland) after being diagnosed as having the early stages of dementia. The 83-year-old was assessed to be mentally competent to make the decision.
Reactions to this landmark are likely to vary. Improving the rates of dementia diagnosis is an ambition of UK and European official policy; so this form of extreme reaction to dementia diagnosis needs to be considered seriously as a potential unintended consequence. Improving the information and advice available on the subject is likely to be of assistance, as may improvements to post-diagnostic counselling and support services.
While remaining non-judgemental about any one individual’s carefully considered decision, the official “line” on this subject is summed-up by the Alzheimer’s Society‘s position:
“No-one with the condition should have to accept a poor quality of life. Instead we need to be driving up standards to ensure everyone can enjoy a good quality of life today… People with dementia deserve a dignified death and good quality end of life care”.
Efforts to raise awareness of dementia, and to remove some of the dread and stigma attached to the condition, continue.
‘First’ UK assisted suicide for dementia. London: BBC Health News, May 30th 2013.
[A brief reference to this item features in Dementia and Elderly Care: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWNHST), Volume 3 Issue 9, August 2013].
Pre-Symptomatic Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease / Early Diagnosis of Dementia
The following article raises difficult considerations:
Draper, B. (2014). Rational suicide and dementia. The Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (JRCPE). 2014. Vol. 44(2), pp.130-131.
Euthanasia and the Law: International Comparisons
People with dementia living in Holland request euthanasia more commonly. The following piece includes statistical information supplied by the Dutch Regional Review Committees:
Bomford, A. (2019). Wanting to die at ‘five to midnight’ – before dementia takes over. London: BBC Stories / BBC Health News, January 30th 2019.