Alzheimer’s Association rapidly parts ways with assisted suicide advocacy group

Less than three months after announcing their partnership, the Alzheimer’s Association has parted ways with the assisted suicide advocacy organization Compassion & Choices.

In November, Compassion & Choices put out a press release (now removed from their site) celebrating the partnership. The goal was allegedly to improve end-of-life care for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, though the goal of Compassion & Choices has always been to advocate for assisted suicide.

Then, at the end of January, the Alzheimer’s Association released a statement saying the partnership was over, and apologized for forming it to begin with, writing that “[Compassion & Choices’] values are inconsistent with those of the Association.” The Association also recommitted to its goal of ensuring that people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia receive the best end-of-life care possible — which apparently does not include making sure they die faster.

“As a patient advocacy group and evidence-based organization, the Alzheimer’s Association stands behind people living with Alzheimer’s, their care partners and their health care providers as they navigate treatment and care choices throughout the continuum of the disease,” the statement said. “Research supports a palliative care approach as the highest quality of end-of-life care for individuals with advanced dementia.”

The previous press release from Compassion & Choices perhaps signaled what their true goal was. “This new partnership will focus on reaching populations that haven’t traditionally had access to a supportive, culturally competent and engaged healthcare system, especially in the Black, Latino, Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) and LGBTQ communities,” the release said.

Minority groups tend to overwhelmingly shun assisted suicide, and groups like Compassion & Choices have long been working to attract them.

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“We are committed to transforming the way people live and die with dementia by connecting them with the information, tools and resources they need to take control of their care and claim their voice before they are unable to speak for themselves,” Compassion & Choices President and CEO Kim Callinan said in the previous press release. “We are so excited to begin this partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association to enable both organizations to reach even more people, especially in historically marginalized communities.”

The Washington Free Beacon, before the partnership was ended, expressed suspicion regarding Compassion & Choices’ motives in the partnership.

“It is a very bad look for the Alzheimer’s Association, who have done so much for patients, to form a partnership with the leading proponent organization for assisted suicide laws, putting people with dementia and other intellectual disabilities at grave risk of deadly harm,” Matt Vallière, the executive director of the Patients’ Rights Action Fund, an advocacy group which opposes assisted suicide, told the outlet.

Joel Zivot, an intensive care doctor and a professor at Atlanta’s Emory University, likewise told the Washington Free Beacon, “I can tell you that in the U.S., or where I’m practicing … my patients who feel disenfranchised from health care … are not demanding to die. They’re demanding to live.”

“The people who feel like the health care system had failed them their entire life,” Zivot added. “Now you want me to roll over and die? No, thank you.”

This is an issue that has a particular relevance to minority communities; Black participants in research studies are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia, though they are 35% less likely to be diagnosed with it. For people already desperate to get legitimate health care for a devastating health condition, a partnership with an assisted suicide organization surely reinforces their fears that their health does not matter to the medical establishment.

People with Alzheimer’s and dementia can live for years after a diagnosis, and they need help living the lives they have left to the fullest.

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