Ad­vanced con­sent fraught with risks

Montreal Gazette - - OPINION -

Re: “As­sisted dy­ing for de­men­tia pa­tients to be ex­am­ined” (Mon­treal Gazette, March 25)

Health Min­is­ter Gaé­tan Bar­rette plans to cre­ate a panel to dis­cuss the ques­tion: Should pa­tients with de­men­tia qual­ify for med­i­cally as­sisted death?

Let’s say you’re a healthy adult who thinks it would be ter­ri­ble to have de­men­tia. You even sign a pa­per say­ing you’d rather be dead than have de­men­tia. Then you get de­men­tia, and dis­cover that life is not over. You have lim­its you didn’t have be­fore; you need help from your fam­ily for cer­tain things; you have chal­lenges, some­times big ones, as ev­ery­one does. But guess what? You’re still happy to be alive.

But then some­one de­cides to im­ple­ment the wishes you ex­pressed when you had dif­fer­ent wor­ries and pri­or­i­ties. It’s too late to change your mind. They call in a doc­tor, who kills you. That’s what we are talk­ing about.

It hap­pened last year to a woman in the Nether­lands. She was se­dated with­out her knowl­edge and then held down by her fam­ily as she strug­gled against the lethal in­jec­tion.

Be care­ful what you wish for: You might get it. Be care­ful what pow­ers you give to the health min­is­ter: He might use them.

Catherine Fer­rier, MD, divi­sion of ge­ri­atric medicine, McGill Univer­sity Health Cen­tre

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