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Should Patients Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s Or Dementia Be Able To Choose Assisted Suicide?

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 16:  Youssef Cohen rides to a doctor's appointment with his wife Lindsay Wright on March 16, 2016 in New York City. Cohen, 68, has an incurable cancer called mesothelioma and is advocating for the right to choose how and when he will die, proposed in New York State's End of Life Options Act, currently in front of the state legislature. Cohen is a professor of political science at New York University and is currently on sabbatical, due to his illness. He had his first bout with cancer in 2012 and has since undergone chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. He is currently taking immunotherapy infusions of the drug Keytruda in a final effort to fight the disease. The national "right to die" movement is also known as "death with dignity," or called "physician-assisted suicide" by opponents. It is now completely legal in 4 states, including California, where the new law goes into effect this June. If New York does not pass its legislation in time for Cohen's death, he and his wife say they are prepared to move to Oregon, the first state to make death with dignity legal, in order to insure that he dies without suffering.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore/Getty Images
Youssef Cohen rides to a doctor's appointment with his wife Lindsay Wright on March 16, 2016 in New York City.

A recent op-ed in the L.A. Times titled, “My friend has dementia and wants to end her life. California’s assisted-suicide law excludes her,” shines a light on the complexitites of expanding the state’s law beyond patients with a cancer diagnosis or terminal illness.

A recent op-ed in the L.A. Times titled, “My friend has dementia and wants to end her life. California’s assisted-suicide law excludes her,” shines a light on the complexitites of expanding the state’s law beyond patients with a cancer diagnosis or terminal illness.

The law, passed in 2015 and modeled after a 1997 Oregon statute, allows physicians to give lethal drugs to mentally competent adults when they’re faced with a terminal illness and are expected to die within six months. Even as the law stands currently, medical experts and others are divided over the issue. And some worry expanding the law to those with memory deteriorating illnesses could put those patients at risk of increased pressure.

Today on AirTalk, we discuss the idea of expanding California’s law and what it could mean for patients and their loved ones. Have you been impacted by Alzheimer’s or Dementia in some way? What do you think about the idea? We want to hear your thoughts. Join the conversation by calling 866-893-5722.

With guest host John Rabe

Guests:

Josh Bloom, the director of chemical and pharmaceutical sciences at the American Council on Science and Health, a consumer advocacy group and non profit that promotes evidence-based science and medicine; he tweets

Thaddeus Pope, bioethicist and director of the Health Law Institute at Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minn.; he tweets

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