Alzheimer’s Association Ends Assisted Suicide Partnership
People struggling with this degenerative disease deserve dignity, not death.
The Alzheimer’s Association (AA) is an organization dedicated to the care and treatment of those living with Alzheimer’s. It was brought to AA’s attention that it was in cahoots with an organization called Compassion and Choices (C&C). This alliance rang alarm bells amongst supporters and donors.
C&C advertises to families making difficult choices during end-of-life care, and it seems like the group would be an important resource for loved ones dealing with medical decisions. It offers legal, medical, and financial advice. However, if you read between the lines and dig a little deeper, one of the end-of-life “care choices” is medical assistance in suicide. The group doesn’t hide it, but it’s not advertised on its homepage either.
As this writer has warned before, there are 10 states in the U.S. (plus Washington, DC) that have made medically assisted suicide legal. The C&C website lists those states where assisted suicide is available. It also mentions that to receive medically assisted suicide, the patient must meet some criteria: They must be an adult with less than six months to live, mentally able to make their own decisions, and able to self-ingest the “medicine.” Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease of the brain; when a patient is at the six-months-to-live criteria, they are not cognitively able to make that decision and are particularly vulnerable.
As National Review contributor Wesley J. Smith poignantly points out: “People with the condition need love, understanding, and patience. They are still the persons they have always been, just compromised and dependent. I also know how vulnerable people with dementia are and how easily they can be manipulated. I am also aware that too many denigrate them as less than human — so-called non-persons — and view their lives as no longer worth living.” Many families with loved ones living with this disease share Smith’s sentiment. Their loved ones are not suddenly less valuable just because they have a disease that steals their cognitive acuity.
The Alzheimer’s Association realized its mistake in partnering with C&C. In a press release, AA explained:
In an effort to provide information and resources about Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Association entered into an agreement to provide education and awareness information to Compassion & Choices, but failed to do appropriate due diligence. Their values are inconsistent with those of the Association. We deeply regret our mistake, have begun the termination of the relationship, and apologize to all of the families we support who were hurt or disappointed. Additionally, we are reviewing our process for all agreements including those that are focused on the sharing of educational information.
As a patient advocacy group and evidence-based organization, the Alzheimer’s Association stands behind people living with Alzheimer’s, their care partners and their health care providers as they navigate treatment and care choices throughout the continuum of the disease. Research supports a palliative care approach as the highest quality of end-of-life care for individuals with advanced dementia.
Death with dignity — as medically assisted suicide is often advertised — should never mean suicide. It should mean that person is given the compassion and care that their life deserves all the way until its natural end. This stand by the Alzheimer’s Association is a big win for the culture of life that our society should be battling for.
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