Aided suicide ‘will increasingly be choice of dementia patients’

Rosemary Bennett Social Affairs Correspondent of The Times 31st May 2013 reports:

“A retired doctor who helped an 83-year-old man with dementia to die at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland has predicted that many more people who suffer from the illness will choose to end their life in the same way.

Michael Irwin, 82, said that, with the number of people succumbing to dementia growing rapidly, and dramatic improvements in early diagnosis but no cure in sight, more would opt for assisted suicide. He would do the same if he were in that situation, he said.

The British man who died at the Zurich clinic last month contacted Dr Irwin in January to help him to find a psychiatrist who would verify that he was of sound mind. The man’s wife made the travel arrangements and accompanied her husband to the clinic.

The patient, who has not been named, is thought to be the first Briton to end his life at Dignitas because of dementia alone.”…..

As a liberal I believe patients and the public should have as much autonomy over their own lives as possible. I am uncertain that I would be courageous enough or have the desire but if I did I would not want the choice prohibited by the law, and my relatives put at risk of breaking it. As a Doctor, I really don’t know where I would stand until a specific patient with a specific complaint presented before me, but I would be reluctant not to help… if I could.


This entry was posted in A Personal View, Commissioning, Community Health Councils, Patient representatives, Political Representatives and activists, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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