Of all the perils that might befall an elder orphan, dementia is surely the most frightening.
Dementia describes a variety of diseases that are detrimental to the function of the brain. We often think of Alzheimer’s disease which marks the majority of all dementia cases, however, brain damage caused by a stroke or an injury, impairment from Huntington’s disease, are some of the other causes.
This insidious disease slowly embraces its victims and leads them into a fog from which at least in the present day they will never return. We are often teased with news of advances in the fight against dementia. Sometimes it feels like a race to cure Alzheimer’s disease or at least inhibit its advances against the time that we have before it envelops us. There are plenty of on-line resources that describe the symptoms of dementia and the progress that research is making to deal with it.
Fortunate are those of us who have not witnessed the effects and progression of dementia among our family members and acquaintances and the struggle and challenges that their care-givers face and we are aware of the suffering that is inflicted on them. We learn of the drastic steps that those care-givers take to deal with the condition.
As I write this, the legislators in the Province of Quebec are dealing with the debate. Under Quebec’s 2015 law, euthanasia for the demented is specifically excluded arguing that a person who makes a request for medical assistance in dying must be capable of consent. They now want to open a public debate on legalizing euthanasia for persons unable to give that informed consent and allowing people to make advance requests for assisted suicide, giving people with dementia access to the medical procedure.
Those opposing the idea contend that demented patients need to be protected and the wishes that they expressed years ago may not reflect what they would want today.
Quebec is also asking the courts to clarify a section of the federal assisted-suicide law that says the procedure should only be available to those whose deaths are reasonably foreseeable.
The issues came to the forefront as a result of a recent case of a man who is facing second-degree murder charges in the death of his 60-year-old wife, who had Alzheimer’s disease but was refused a doctor-assisted death but whom according to family members was refused help.
Now the question that surfaces is while we remain of sound mind whether we should be off to our lawyers to prepare a document that will deliver the authority to our loved ones and care givers to end our lives when we have lost our mental capacity to make that decision ourselves. There is a great deal more to explore on this matter including how to prepare legally, financially, and otherwise for the possibility that we might succumb to this terrifying disease.