I have looked at this very seriously. Like other people probably the prospect of Alzheimer Syndrome disturbs, mainly because I have a young family who could be subjected to years of suffering my years of increasing absence to the worst end of it that I have seen several times. I also have a couple of things that can probably be maintained for a couple of decades. However, if I started to drift away, then I would cease to take medication in the hope I could help myself go. The problem for any of us making decisions like this is whether that is selfish or genuinely for the benefit of others. That is not just for the individual who wants to go, be let go or helped go but for their loved ones. If they don't want to let somebody go then where does the affected person stand? That is where I always end up. The question is always open. So my answer to the question is that it must be an all round consent matter, the 'patient', a majority of those who are close enough to be part of that and the medical people. Yes, the patient ultimately decides but only when it is clear that there is understanding established. In the case of someone like your wife Peter my opinion is that it becomes selfish if the family say they would prefer to keep her going. Extreme pain, terrible infirmity and no longer being lucid in the near future should be easy, but they are not. Some people cannot let go, but keep on hoping after all hope is gone. That is on both sides. So, it is never easy.
Then there are some very clear cultural traits with their roots in belief they have had to examine in the studies they have done in the UK. The University of Glasgow Law and Ethics people have done a superb piece of research, however there are many others. Practising Roman Catholics particularly, but also those who have stayed out of it for years but still hang on to belief, live with a doctrine that says that it should not be. On the other side of the Christian divide, only the most conservative Protestant groups deny their adherents the right to choose. Most British Jews are split down the middle and Moslems similarly but depending on which part of Islam. Hindus, Buddhists and other religions are far more pragmatic about death so appear to be more pro than contra. But no, since assisted suicide and euthanasia constitute deliberate killing of another person it contradicts the fundamental Buddhist principle of not killing any living being. According to them suicide is an act without compassion because it causes grief to others.They also believe that death will not relieve the killed person of suffering, only postpone the suffering to the next life. Hindus are similar. So, death is seen pragmatically but being helped to die is very wrong. These are not just religious but cultural beliefs. Even in the secular world the traditions carried over from religious culture are difficult to remove. That is usually translated in the most secular surroundings as 'ethics'. I tend to see that as mob rule over the wishes of individuals and those who decide with them.
Vincent Humbert said much about such things in his book Je vous demande le droit de mourir that he wrote with his thumb. His mother was acquitted of helping him die and new legislation kind of began to fall into place. Two years ago Hollande said there should be a national debate. Where is it then? Hollande also promised a law on it by the end of 2013, France's medical ethics advisory council voted against the legalisation of ‘active’ euthanasia, as found in Swiss clinics such as Dignitas, saying that euthanasia should only be allowed in exceptional cases and then when the patients are able to make 'persistent and lucid requests.' So, Bonnemaison did what he did four years ago, it has been allowed to come to this and look what it has done to him.
As somebody deeply entrenched in the human rights world, and believe it when I say we are not just considering elderly adults given war injured children I have seen who spend every waking hour screaming for help, even several years after being almost blown apart or burned unrecognisable as a human being - they too want to die, end the suffering, but ethics. My understanding of our rights is that they give us self-determination. I don't think we should expect every medical person to be able to concur with that but those who understand and can do it should be allowed to choose. I know from how it works with Dignitas that they also try to offer dissuasive arguments in order to make sure the decision to go is thorough and that when it is done in such circumstances then it should be respected and people allowed to keep that right rather than being denied it by people who uphold their version of ethics without any personal experience of the pain and suffering.
So, for myself I wanted to be informed and clear before the event ever possibly arises. That is what we should all be entitled to which of course respects the views of those who cannot or will not let go until nature takes its course irrespective of what it brings with it. At the heart of it the word respect is probably what I find most important of all. I find the Affaire Bonnemaison and how he was treated entirely lacks it when what he did was difficult enough without subjecting him to legal process and public scrutiny that led to him wishing to end his life.