Bioethics News

Should Quebec’s Alzheimer’s patients be eligible for euthanasia?

Quebec is about to embark upon a debate on the involuntary euthanasia of demented elderly after a  55-year-old man in Montreal allegedly smothered his Alzheimer’s stricken wife and posted what he had done on Facebook. Michel Cadotte was charged with second-degree murder after his 60-year-old wife died in an assisted care facility.

He said on Facebook that he had “cracked” and “consented to her demands to help her die.” Although the facts are not clear yet, the media has reported that the woman requested medical aid in dying but was refused.

Under Quebec’s 2015 law, euthanasia for the demented is specifically excluded. “A person who makes a request for medical assistance in dying must be capable of consent,” Jean-Pierre Ménard, a Montreal medical lawyer, told the Montreal Gazette. “This means the patient must understand their state of health and can express their will. A patient with advanced Alzheimer’s no longer has the capacity to consent, no longer has the cognitive capacity to understand.”

The Gazette reports that Quebec parliamentarians now want to open a public debate on legalizing euthanasia for persons unable to give informed consent. This debate about extending eligibility for euthanasia is happening just a bit more than a year after the law came into effect.

The Quebec Alzheimer’s Society contends that demented patients need to be protected. “It’s very difficult with the complexity of dementia to know for sure what a person with dementia would want today,” April Hayward, of the Society told CTV News. “They may have expressed a wish ten years ago and do we know for certain that’s what they would want today?”

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence.

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.