Caring for a person with dementia can be an extremely difficult thing for someone to do, but it can also be the most rewarding. Unfortunately, a study from the University of Leeds has found that those who have watched someone die from dementia are more likely to support euthanasia for those with the disease.
In a press release, university researchers said the study shows how large a role anxiety plays in the decision to support euthanasia and assisted suicide. “Our findings highlight the complexity of people’s views, their association with negative personal experiences of care in relation to dementia, and the need for more nuanced and complex discussion around this issue,” Freya Thompson, the lead researcher, said. “They also highlight the need to, and the benefit of, involving young adults in these discussions. Younger adults who are rarely included in research, despite their future of greater longevity and health related burdens.”
The study further explained that people with direct caring roles experienced caregiver burden, and felt that if they got dementia themselves, would not want to be a burden on their own loved ones. This is not a surprising finding; numerous other studies from prestigious medical journals have routinely found that people usually want assisted suicide not because they are afraid of a painful, prolonged death, but because they are hopeless and afraid of being a burden, are depressed, and have little to no support. A report from Dignity in Dying Scotland even used those fears against people who are suffering, specifically arguing that because caregiving frequently is done by women, suffering people are a burden on women — and therefore, assisted suicide is necessary.
Positive stories of people caring for loved ones with dementia, or similar conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, are rare. Media outlets often even portray killing someone with Alzheimer’s as an act of love. But some, like Sex Pistols rocker Johnny Lydon, has spoken openly about continuing to love and care for his wife as she grapples with Alzheimer’s. “For me, the real person is still there,” he said. “That person I love is still there every minute of every day, and that is my life,” he said.
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