Alzheimer’s disease should be considered terminal illness in death-with-dignity laws (letter)
Dear editor: Scientists believe that for most people, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time; these include certain medications, a lack of exercise, depression, diabetes, head trauma and other factors.
For the past several years, a dozen of my closest friends have been dealing with a husband or wife who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. There is no cure for these disorders, and a person so-afflicted can live for years in a vegetative state at great mental and financial cost to themselves, their family and to society.
Today, five states — California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont and Washington — and the District of Columbia have death-with-dignity laws that allow qualified terminally ill adults to voluntarily request and receive a prescription medication to hasten their death.
Unfortunately, none of the above recognize Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia as terminal illnesses, and it is my hope that in the near future, the great state of Colorado will be the first state to allow those suffering from dementia who wish to end their life with dignity and not suffer needlessly will be allowed to receive the resources necessary to do so.
For those of us so inclined who do not want to be a burdensome invalid for years, a rational approach to the reality that death is simply a fact of life would be to allow a person of sound mind to write in his or her living will/advanced directive that should they be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia that they would have the same options as those diagnosed with other forms of terminal illness.