Hastings Center Report
Ending One’s Life in Advance
Abstract: If you developed Alzheimer disease, would you want to go all the way to the end of what might be a decade-long course? Some would; some wouldn’t. Options open to those who choose to die sooner are often inadequate. Do-not-resuscitate orders and advance directives depend on others’ cooperation. Preemptive suicide may mean giving up years of life one would count as good. Do-it-yourself methods can fail. What we now ask of family and clinicians caring for persons with dementia, and of patients given no better option than to go on with lives they may not want, is unacceptable. To explore how one might better control one’s own dying and avoid burdening others with overwhelming care and morally painful choices, we propose a thought experiment: an advance directive implant that would enable persons with early dementia, while competent, to arrange their own deaths without the subsequent intervention of anyone else.