Dementia and Dignitas

By 18th March 2013 Uncategorized

The Daily Mail reports today that a man who has dementia has decided to go to Dignitas. The assisted dying debate is frought with ethical dilemmas and moral difficulties but it is important to focus closely on the messages that organisations such as Dignity in Dying are trying to convey: the Mail article mentions the possibility that this man’s decision will exert pressure on other people with dementia to kill themselves, which I would challenge. Any assisted dying laws would be introduced for people who have the mental capacity to make a decision to die, and are living with a condition so depressing they feel they have no quality of life any more. This is not necessarily people who are disabled, or old, or having memory problems, it is people living under what they consider to be intolerable circumstances. Once we start mentioning putting pressure on people, implications for disabled people etc we are drawing in a group of people who in fact stand outside the debate. But the more we do the more nervous they will become that they ARE a part of the debate. We celebrate disability and old age in an evolved manner nowadays, let’s not undermine that by extending a discussion about assisted dying to those who are living happily with their disability or age.

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