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Alzheimer’s disease and assisted dying in UK

As in many countries around the world, according to figures from the UK Office of National Statistics show that the number of deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia continues to rise. 1 in 8 of all deaths in England and Wales were caused by dementia in 2018.

The subject of dementia and assisted dying is complex and raises a minefield of ethical issues. A new book, “O, Let me not get Alzheimer’s Sweet Heaven! Why many people prefer death or active deliverance to living with dementia” is published, which provides a clear guide through this minefield. It is written in a style which is very accessible to the general reader, but is backed up with a wealth of academic references for the professional. There are many anecdotes, presented with touches of humour, to lighten an otherwise very dark subject. The author, Colin Brewer, is a retired psychiatrist who has been involved in the UK right to die movement for over 40 years.

The various forms of treatment and care are discussed, like  the right to refuse treatment (like artificial feeding and hydration, or antibiotics).   A recurring theme throughout the book is the importance of making clear what your wishes are by using an advance decision. Appendices give examples and a pro-forma for an advance decision specifically tailored to those with a dementia diagnosis – though the strong recommendation is to write one long before that stage is reached.

The book considers a host of objections to changing the law on assisted dying, and the motives behind the groups opposing change. Dr Brewer is a cavalier guide through the ethical minefield, fearlessly considering areas where others fear to tread. No one escapes his scrutiny – doctors, the palliative care community, religious leaders, representatives of disability groups.   The book is undoubtedly provocative – but with a purpose – to enable evidence-based discussion of important issues and to expose what he sees as fallacious arguments and hidden biases.

The second part of the book considers the choices both the individual and society have now: Do nothing; Do something; Do it yourself; Do it abroad.  

A highly recommendable book!

The book can be acquired with Amazon.