Montreal Gazette

Advanced consent fraught with risks


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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