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Euthanasia in advanced dementia

Crucial rights advance from the position of Quebec’s “End-of-Life Care” Act 2015; or proof that the slope in Canada is slippery indeed?! 

In Quebec Michel Cadotte, a 55-year-old man, allegedly smothered his 60-year-old Alzheimer’s-stricken wife and posted about his actions on Facebook. He was charged with second-degree murder. On Facebook Cadotte said that he had "cracked" and "consented to her demands to help her die." The media reported the woman had previously requested medical aid in dying, but this had been refused. Under Quebec’s 2015 law, euthanasia for someone with dementia 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. 

However, April Hayward of the Quebec Alzheimer’s Society countered 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 …they may have expressed a wish ten years ago and do we know for certain that's what they would want today?"

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