One of my favorite authors is Terry Pratchett, who has created a whole fantasy world called Discworld, and spun it out over 39 novels that are hilarious, insightful, and unbelievably clever.
Thief of Time is great in print, but even better when read with the voice characterizations of Stephen Briggs on the audioCD version, which had me pulling my car off the road in fits of laughter.
In Pratchett’s books, Death is a rather comical character. Interestingly, he now looks at Death as a refuge for those with dementia.
Diagnosed with an atypical form of early-onset Alzheimer’s, Pratchett, 63, is now a strong advocate of assisted suicide, or “assisted dying” as her prefers to call it. He is just finishing his 39th Discworld novel, ironically called Snuff, but he has had to dictate the novel using voice-recognition software, because his condition makes it difficult for him to track properly when reading copy and writing.
While Pratchett feels his quality of life is still acceptable today, he also wants to control the timing and nature of his death, and he feels that everyone with Alzheimer’s should be able to do so. His interview today on NPR can be found here: http://www.npr.org/2011/08/11/139262401/discworlds-terry-pratchett-on-death-and-deciding
While I love his writing, I don’t totally agree with Pratchett’s argument. I don’t really buy his semantic distinction between ”assisted dying” and ”suicide”–that one is rational and the other is not. And he may be overreaching in his predictions of where his life is going.
Of course, I don’t have dementia and might feel differently if I did, but I think that we tend to pass judgment on what one’s quality of life will be, based on our own valuation of what people can and cannot do. It’s a crude comparison, but to say that a person will necessarily suffer when cognitive skills decline is a bit like saying that I prize my vision, therefore blind people must have no quality of life.
In fact some research has suggested that for many people, quality of life does not decline with progression of dementia, even though family and friends may assume it does.
It’s tough and debatable stuff to digest. Listen to the interview, and by all means, discover his wonderful books.