Medpage Today posts “ethics consult” over euthanizing people with dementia

Overwhelming opposition voiced by more than 5,000 physicians

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Last week, Medpage Today posted an “Ethics Consult” under the headline, “Euthanize Resistant Dementia Patient?—You Make the Call”

More than 5,100 physicians responded.

The consult was based on the euthanasia death of a 67-yeaar-old 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. 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.

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, an overwhelming majority responded NO.

Canada is considering extending euthanasia to people with dementia, who made a previous request.

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 also 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 are 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.

The fact that Canada is debating this issue proves that euthanasia is deceptive and fatally flawed. Euthanasia for people with dementia should be rejected.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.