Would we rather lose our life than lose our self? Lessons from the Dutch debate on euthanasia for patients with dementia

Cees M.P.M. Hertogh*, Marike E. De Boer, Rose Marie Dröes, Jan A. Eefsting

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

This article reviews the Dutch societal debate on euthanasia/assisted suicide in dementia cases, specifically Alzheimer's disease. It discusses the ethical and practical dilemmas created by euthanasia requests in advance directives and the related inconsistencies in the Dutch legal regulations regarding euthanasia/assisted suicide. After an initial focus on euthanasia in advanced dementia, the actual debate concentrates on making euthanasia/assisted suicide possible in the very early stages of dementia. A review of the few known cases of assisted suicide of people with so-called early dementia raises the question why requests for euthanasia/assisted suicide from patients in the early stage of (late onset) Alzheimer's disease are virtually non-existent. In response to this question two explanations are offered. It is concluded that, in addition to a moral discussion on the limits of anticipatory choices, there is an urgent need to develop research into the patient's perspective with regard to medical treatment and care-giving in dementia, including end-of-life care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-56
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Bioethics
Volume7
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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