The Australian Christian Lobby has welcomed an Alzheimer’s Australia report examining end-of-life planning for people suffering for dementia.
The report, “Planning for the End of Life for People with Dementia Part 2”, found the current debate surrounding euthanasia has left patients and their families “clouded with confusion” and unsure of their rights.
The paper, which was commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Australia National Consumer Advisory Committee, was prepared by Professor Colleen Cartwright, Director ASLaRC, Aged Care Services Unit at Southern Cross University.
In issuing the report Alzheimer’s Australia made it clear they did not have a position on euthanasia but they believe the debate on euthanasia is “clouded in confusion.”
The report’s chairman Professor Colleen Cartwright said “more discussion, debate and community-wide research is needed to ensure the more complex and specific issues of dementia are covered.
“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.
“It gets more complicated, however, when you start considering whether the prior wishes for assisted voluntary euthanasia by a person with dementia should be respected once they reach the point at which they previously indicated they would like to end their life. The difficulty lies in determining whether or not we can be sure the person would want to continue with their request at that time,” she said.
According to the Australian Christian Lobby, confusion reigns in the wider euthanasia debate and even some of the politicians they meet with are confused over the difference between euthanasia and other end-of-life options.
“It is clear that confusion on the difference between legal measures to manage end-of-life care – what euthanasia supporters often label ‘passive euthanasia’ – and deliberate acts to end a person’s life – ‘active euthanasia’ – have caused people to conflate the moral distinction between the two very different courses of action.
“Because the media have focused almost exclusively on the controversy of euthanasia over the last couple of decades in the context of end of life decision-making, it is little surprise that Alzheimer’s Australia has discovered that the public is largely uninformed about the options that are legally available such as advance directives and palliative care”.
“The fervour with which campaigners have pursued euthanasia as an end of life ‘choice’ has prevented a more balanced public conversation from taking place, including the legal and ethical means of managing ‘suffering’ at the end life.
“Alzheimer’s Australia has also raised the ‘complicated’ nature of end of life care for patients who have lost decision-making capacity who had expressed a previous wish for voluntary euthanasia were it legalised, but might not now wish to continue with that request.
“Given the fact involuntary euthanasia continues to take place in the Netherlands following legalisation, which its supporters said would ‘bring it out into the open’, there is strong evidence that already vulnerable patients are even more vulnerable where euthanasia is practiced ‘openly’ with the assent of the law,” said the statement.
Alzheimer’s Australia has called on these issues to be discussed as part of any debate on euthanasia.
Alzheimer’s Australia: euthanasia debate “clouded in confusion"
By: Clayton Hinds
Thursday, 5 May 2011, 22:53 (EST)
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