ALS, called Lou Gehrig’s disease in the USA and motor neurone disease in the UK, is the bloody flag often waved by euthanasia activists as a reason to legalize mercy killing. “Of course he wants to die,” they will say. and then some will assert falsely and cruelly that death from ALS will agonizing by choking on saliva, even though patients receiving proper care do not die choking.
My last hospice patient died peacefully in his sleep from ALS. While I was with him, euthanasia was in the news with ALS patients featured on ABC Nightline as wanting euthanasia. Bob was fit to be tied! After being suicidal for more than two years–because he felt so abandoned by his friends, not due to the disease–he told me that his ending period was the best time of his life. (Yet, had assisted suicide been legal, he would have probably missed the good times–or so he told me. But people from Compassion and Choices say that people like Bob can’t commit suicide because their lives are already over.) And he is not the only ALS patient I have known with that incredibly positive attitude.
Now, there is some journal evidence that ALS patients quality of life is not unremitting horror. From the story:
Although an outside observer would have expected ALS patients to be depressed, as the disease is so serious, this was only the case for 10% of patients. This means that the proportion of depressive disorders is only slightly greater than in the overall population.
In view of the public discussion on euthanasia and assisted suicide, the authors think it essential that there should be a scientific investigation of the quality of life, as seen by the patient. The present studies show that the quality of life of patients with a fatal degenerative disease does not necessarily have to differ from that of healthy subjects.
In an accompanying editorial, Professor Hans Förstl points out the significance of these studies for the discussion of measures to shorten life. These could no longer be simply justified by saying that the patient had to be freed from his suffering. Förstl commented that the suffering is seen by the observer and not felt by the patient.
Not that the pro euthanasia types will care. For them, it’s an ideological quest, not an empirically driven cause.