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End stage Alzheimer's disease and the morality of positive euthanasia

 
 
Reply Mon 26 Jan, 2009 09:00 am
Hello All,

I have long thought about exactly where the soul/mind of an Alzheimer sufferer exist in the End Stage where the person has become so incapacitated that they are zombie like and comatose. Playing Devils Advocate I put a few points for discussion as follows"

Could the degradation of the mind due to end stage Alzheimer's disease suggest that the mind and, resultantly, the human consciousness could be transient things.

Does this prove that most preconceived notions of an afterlife are fundamentally flawed?


Must we be able to perceive, evaluate and understand the afterlife for in to become a reality in the afterlife? E.g. or heaven or hell are creations of the mind which appears dead in the end stage Alzheimer sufferer

Mind might not survive without a functioning human body. Does the eternal soul live on? If the consciousness dies then the thing that makes you an individual, self-aware human might cease at that moment also

As the disease progresses the Alzheimer's victim goes through anger, rage, violence, depression, regressing to childhood, forgetting current life - almost living in a 'past life' state. in random stages of this disease...

The final stage of the Alzheimer sufferer is unspeakably difficult for the family who must look after and nurse the person they loved so much but who is now just a blank eyed robot that somehow retains the ability to eat and drink.
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I have seen the terrible devastation of this disease where the person is apparently absent from the body and the body lives on as a mindless biological entity.

But the body was the vehicle of the soul of a loved one, is this person trapped in the horror of dark void, or has the mind or soul ceased to exist.?

Does this person suffer unspeakably and if we could really establish this, would not positive euthanasia be an option.

If God, forbid, I ever got into this state I would welcome someone giving me a huge dose of morphine and releasing me into my destiny

What do you think about this vexing problem?

The difficult question is can positive euthanasia ever be justified?
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WithoutReason
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Feb, 2009 10:30 pm
@Alan McDougall,
Yes, positive euthanasia can be justified. But the more difficult question is when can it be justified, and how do we resolve the difficult issues that arise when an opportunity for euthanasia presents itself?

Normally I do not support the involuntary taking of another human life, but obvously euthanasia can in at least some cases be voluntary. Ideally the means of death would be administered by the patient herself, but if the patient were unable to do so yet clearly has the capacity to ask for and understand euthanasia, I'd probably support external assistance.

For me the difficult issues that arise are how do we determine whether the patient understands and can ask for euthanasia, and what can we do to relieve suffering if they cannot and we are not comfortable with euthanasia under these circumstances? You may have guessed I would under no circumstances support involuntary euthanasia. By involuntary euthanasia I mean performing euthanasia when the patient has clearly objected. This is one of my main concerns if euthanasia becomes widespread - will we eventually establish conditions under which euthanasia must be performed, even if the patient does not want it?

But what do we do if the patient never did have or no longer has the capacity to understand euthanasia? The latter would probably be expected with conditions such as Alzheimer's. Is it acceptable to adminsiter euthanasia when the patient cannot ask for it but it is likely that a reasonable person in such a state of suffering would ask for it? I'm not entirely comfortable with it, given that just because an average person might ask for euthanasia under a given set of circumstances does not mean we can assume everyone would, and yet I am also not comfortable with allowing the suffering to continue. This is what makes the issue difficult for me. I'm not sure there are any easy answers.

As for your other questions, I believe this "eternal soul" you mention would be considered by most religions as something distinct from the mind, and thus something that would survive bodily death. Consciousness, they would say, is something that exists both as a part of the mind and apart from it. However, I do find it interesting that most people who have Alzheimer's or other conditions that result in a decreased mental capacity do not seem concerned with religion. This would seem to suggest that perhaps religion is nothing more than a product of the higher mental functioning we humans are so well known for, and that when such functioning ceases to exist, religious ideas also cease to exist.
xris
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Feb, 2009 01:22 pm
@WithoutReason,
The system kills every day and will continue to kill..It does not classify it as killing it calls it ..we cant afford to treat you..or we will not feed you so your starve to death..or ill give you so much pain killer the pain killer will kill you..It eases their conscience it allows them to sleep nights, it is medical reasoning.I cant blame them but i cant stand the hypocrisy of it.
Would you say a damaged radio makes the possibility of communicating by radio waves impossible? We exist through the body and we leave when our body has cast of this mortal robe not before or even when it carries on without our knowledge.I had very good friend with a brain tumour ,through treatment he returned to us briefly and he then lost contact with reality but i know he only left that body when he breathed his last breath.. I cant prove it but i know.
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Alan McDougall
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2009 10:06 am
@Alan McDougall,
Hi guys

I am amazed how few responded to this topic, nearly every other family will be visited by this unspeakable problems, and I have made a living will not to be sustained artificially if i get into this ate, God forbid

Thanks for your meaningful replies!
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Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2009 10:41 am
@Alan McDougall,
Hey Alan (Nice name, btw, it's both my middle and Son's first name - same spelling Smile )

Alan McDougall wrote:
Could the degradation of the mind due to end stage Alzheimer's disease suggest that the mind and, resultantly, the human consciousness could be transient things

Yes, and I think it to be just so - not that Alzheimer's condition necessarily proves the mind as a "transient thing", but that the circumstances surrounding it does seem to lend support. But I believe the mind and consciousness to be temporary anyway, so my opinion may be biased.


Alan McDougall wrote:
Does this prove that most preconceived notions of an afterlife are fundamentally flawed?


No, not directly. I dont' see a direct connection between this condition and the existence of an afterlife at all. If we examine these two notions independently of their other elements, one could easily posit that the soul in a late-stage Alzheimer's patient was just "suppressed" or perhaps maybe even already-departed.

Alan McDougall wrote:
Must we be able to perceive, evaluate and understand the afterlife for in to become a reality in the afterlife? E.g. or heaven or hell are creations of the mind which appears dead in the end stage Alzheimer sufferer


At this point in your good questions I think I am so far away that I'm not likely to contribute much. That being said; to me, if there is an afterlife, it'd exist whether or not anyone conceived of it (unless you subscribe that the objective existence of any sort of afterlife is dependent upon its creation within the mind). Again, I'm likely too disconnected from this line of thought to answer well.

Alan McDougall wrote:
Mind might not survive without a functioning human body. Does the eternal soul live on? If the consciousness dies then the thing that makes you an individual, self-aware human might cease at that moment also


I believe this is the case; that the mind is what is created by our biological components and their accompanying biolelectrical dynamics; that in concert, these are what create that ineffeble "thing" we call human consciousness or the mind. So to my way of thinking, to the extent any condition degrades our "sense of self"; that our consciousness, proportionately, is also diminished

Alan McDougall wrote:
But the body was the vehicle of the soul of a loved one, is this person trapped in the horror of dark void, or has the mind or soul ceased to exist.?


Good question. Yea I too have seen one whither to nothingness from this disease, and it's a truly-disturbing thing to behold. I believe that once self-awareness, sapience, thought and consciousness are gone (which happen, as I perceived it, just before the end) that this person no longer knows, feels, thinks or "is" in the way they previously were. Functionally, I'd think that person could be called "gone to us" (for all intents and purposes).

Alan McDougall wrote:
Does this person suffer unspeakably and if we could really establish this, would not positive euthanasia be an option.


Yes, I think it is an option; however, it'd dependent on the circumstances. The only relatively-ethical means one could perform such a euthanasia, without massive ethical iffyness (that I can think of), might be as a result of the person's expressed desires made prior to the onset (i.e., the existence of a verified, legal document wherein the person concerned as set out specific circumstances where - if they are met - euthanasia is their desire).

Without this quasi-"Living Will", so to speak, I'm not sure it's justified. As I, rather insufficiently, understand it there isn't any pain (or at least none that are manifest in the typical manner) so we can't use "mercy" as a reason for killing them... and thinking about it more, I'm not sure there is a ethically justifiable means to impose euthenasia on a person in any stage without such a "sound-minded" request.

I should; however, note how painful this entire process is on family and other loved ones. It's disturbing and saturated with sorrow and macabre sense of bewilderment; almost as if ones been "disallowed" the good memory; supplanted by something bizarre and unspeakable. But no, I don't believe this alone could be used to justify it.

Alan McDougall wrote:
If God, forbid, I ever got into this state I would welcome someone giving me a huge dose of morphine and releasing me into my destiny


... then you might want to see if its possible to draw up a pre-request, in a legally-accepted form, in the event such a thing arises. Heck, I don't even know if there is such a legal-tool; I'd hope so. As you can see; although I have my own views on euthanasia and some experience with Alzheimer's, but I am far from being well-versed on the legal issues.

Thanks for asking
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Alan McDougall
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2009 12:38 pm
@Alan McDougall,
Khethil

Thank you for a very informant and well thought out reply.

I have made it clear in my will that if I ever suffer end stage Alzheimer's, that I must sustained by artificial means , but be allowed to die peacefully.

High doses of morphine will help my demise
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