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UK ethicist remarks on dementia patients
United Kingdom's Baroness Mary Warnock, considered an expert on medical ethics, created a stir in late 2008 with her suggestion that those in the UK with dementia have a duty to die, so as not to strain public health resources.
Warnock was quoted in an article in a Church of Scotland publication as saying, "If you're demented, you're wasting people's lives, your family's lives, and you're wasting the resources of the National Health Service."
Her views created buzz on both sides of the Atlantic. J. Vincent Guss Jr., MDiv, chaplain of Falcons Landing Air Force Retired Officers Community in Potomac Falls, VA, says, "I definitely agree with her, on a moral basis, that a person has the 'right' to choose whether or not to prolong life with antibiotics, aggressive medical treatment, etc., even if pain or terminality are not issues. One can make the decision for oneself and choose an advocate to carry out that decision to abate medical treatment, even in cases and reason of dementia."
Guss says it is "quite another thing to jump to the next level of proposing a person has the 'duty to die' or to say, as she is quoted, that just because she does '... not want to continue to be remembered in a state of dementia,' that such a state of being renders others 'useless ... and a waste to the National Health Trust.'"
Guss adds that this thinking is "not consistent with morality or bioethical principles."
UK airs patient dying on camera
At press time, the United Kingdom also was getting attention for the airing of a documentary showing a case of assisted suicide on television in that country and the patient's dying on camera, according to an Associated Press (AP) report.
The AP report said the decision to air the death on television prompted headlines and even a debate in Parliament, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown asked about the appropriateness of airing the suicide on camera for public view.
The AP said the documentary previously had been shown on Canadian and Swiss television and at numerous film festivals. The AP report stated that the documentary originally was titled "The Suicide Tourist," but was renamed "Right to Die?" for the broadcast in Britain.
Assisted suicide is illegal in Britain, and the death appearing in the documentary was filmed at a Swiss clinic, the AP reports.