Sunday, December 15, 2019

Euthanasia of people with dementia. Medpage "ethics consult"

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Last week, Medpage Today posted an "Ethics Consult" concerning euthanasia of a person with dementia.



The consult was based on the euthanasia death of a Dutch woman who requested euthanasia in her advanced directive, but then resisted and said NO at the time of the euthanasia. The physician put a sedative in her coffee, to settle her down, but the woman continued to resist so the physician had the family hold her down as she was lethally injected. A Dutch court decided that the euthanasia had been carried out with proper care and cleared the doctor of all charges.

The Medpage consult had more than 5100 physicians respond. Medpage asked: 
On the day of the determined death, the patient became agitated to the point of screaming and pushing the physician away when he approached. It became clear that she would need to be sedated and physically restrained to administer the lethal injection.
1 Do you proceed with the euthanasia?
750 physicians responded YES and 4,400 physicians NO.
I am concerned that 750 physicians responded YES, nonetheless, a strong majority responded NO.


In Canada euthanasia is done by physicians or nurse practitioners who lethally inject the person. Canada's criminal code recognizes this as a form of homicide but the government provided an exception to homicide when two doctors or nurse practitioners agree that the person qualifies for euthanasia. Nonetheless this is homicide.

I oppose creating exceptions to homicide/murder, but in this case the person is incapable of consenting at the time of death. Therefore the defense of consent, which the law requires, is not possible.

Secondly, when a person is declared incompetent they legally unable to change their legal documents, such as a Power of Attorney (Living Will). Therefore incompetent people are legally unable to change their minds.

If euthanasia is permitted based on a statement in a Power of Attorney document, the physician or nurse practitioner would be able to lethally inject (euthanasia) the person even if the person had changed their mind.
* Protect your life by purchasing the Life Protecting Power of Attorney for Personal Care (Link).
The fact that Canada is debating this issue proves that euthanasia is deceptive and fatally flawed, nonetheless, euthanasia for people with dementia should be rejected.

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