Earlier this month BBC News reported on Chris Graham, a 39-year-old man with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, an extremely rare gene mutation, which killed Chris’ father at 42-years-old. Graham, has a newborn son, to whom he may have passed on the gene mutation, but Graham remains hopeful, saying, “If we can put a man on the Moon then surely we can find a cure for Alzheimer’s?” This story is both heartbreaking and inspiring.
It reminds me of another tragic case of Alzheimer’s in 2012. Charles Snelling, having made a pact with his wife, who had the disease, killed his wife and then himself. Snelling’s wife, Adrienne, no longer wanted to live once the disease progressed to a point where she couldn’t live life as she had known it. In the medical community, the term “quality of life” would come to mind. Throughout the world, there is a widely held notion that life is no longer worth living at a certain point. This can be seen clearly in the recent case of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old with terminal cancer, who chose to end her life via physician-assisted suicide last year.
For every tragic story like this that makes it into the public eye, there are dozens more people suffering in silence, unknown to the masses. No one likes to talk about something so difficult, so utterly impossible to explain. But instead of ignoring things like Alzheimer’s and those who suffer from it, the medical community has a duty to raise awareness and promote conversation about the idea of “quality of life” decision-making.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.