It is clear that Australians living with Alzheimers need to both understand their current options and be offered the necessary support system for their care before Australia ever considers legalizing euthanasia.
The media release concerning the document - Planning for the End of Life for People with Dementia, part 2 - quotes Liz Fenwick, a family carer who chaired the working group:
“I know from personal experience that the current system for planning end-of-life care is confusing and can be challenging to those who do not know where to start - it was a shock to be faced with decisions I was not ready for.
“Taking together our two discussion papers on end of life it is clear to me that the community needs to be better informed about the options that are legally available such as advance directives and palliative care.”
Professor Colleen Cartwright was quoted in the media release to state:
“End-of-life issues are complex, personal and sensitive but they are made all the more difficult if the wishes of the person concerned are not properly understood or set out, especially in cases where the person has dementia.
“There is reluctance in our society to discuss end-of-life issues, which translates to a failure by many to plan properly for the end of their life.”
Many of the issues discussed in the paper are of general relevance to all Australians but there are particular issues relevant to people with dementia.
“More discussion, debate and community-wide research is needed to ensure the more complex and specific issues of dementia are covered,” said Professor Cartwright.
“It is clear that, even if voluntary euthanasia were to be legalised, it would be wrong to end the life of an individual who does not have the capacity to make the decision and who has not expressed previous wishes."
Surrounding the debate on euthanasia is also the confusion in relation to the terminology used.
“There are many people who do not understand the definitions or what is considered euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide,” said Professor Cartwright.
“Giving pain relief which may also shorten life, respecting a patient’s right to refuse treatment, withholding or withdrawing futile life-support systems and, finally, terminal sedation are all currently legal options and they are not forms of euthanasia.”
Glenn Rees, CEO Alzheimer’s Australia was quoted as stating:
“Our focus is to ensure that individuals are both aware of the options that are currently legally available to them, and encouraged to start planning early in the disease process.
“It is clear that if the present system is to work better for people with dementia and their families more resources are needed for palliative care services in the community.
“We also need to ensure that there are sufficient residential aged care places for people with dementia, and that there is a bigger investment in services designed to promote planning at end life, including through advance care directives.”
Alzheimer's Australia also expressed concern that studies have proven that a significant number of people die by euthanasia even though they did not provide consent.
If euthanasia is legalized, will it ever be possible to ensure that all people are protected from euthanasia without consent? The answer is NO.