Alongside increasing rates of dementia diagnoses worldwide, efforts to seek alternative end-of-life options also increase. While the concept of assisted dying remains controversial, the discussion around its provision for people with dementia raises even more sensitivity. In this study, we explored how the practice of assisted dying for people with dementia is conceptualized and understood using the shared narratives of online contributors. An observational netnography over 20 months was carried out within five open Facebook communities. Thematic analysis was conducted on 1,007 online comments about assisted dying and dementia. Results reflected four central themes and five subthemes: understanding dementia; understanding assisted dying laws; caregivers’ feelings; and moral/personal dilemmas. Findings reveal that the majority of communities’ contributors fear developing dementia. They support the provision of advance euthanasia directives—written by competent patients—to prevent unnecessary suffering, and protect patients’ wishes and freedom of choice when decision-making competency is lost.
Dementia is one of the prominent conditions for which an aging population has been seeking end-of-life solutions such as assisted dying. Individuals with dementia, however, are often unable to meet the eligibility criteria of being mentally competent and are thus discriminated against in relation to assisted dying laws. Provided that the assisted death directive is being made in sound mind, it is still of concern whether these advance directives can be appropriately framed and safeguarded to protect the wish of these vulnerable individuals while preventing harm. Therefore, to establish consensus views of experts on primary issues of, and concerns about, assisted dying for individuals with dementia as well as exploring tentative conceptual framework to safeguard practice and application, a three-round Delphi study was conducted. A core group of 12 experts from five countries was recruited comprising expertise in domains relevant to assisted dying and dementia. A semantic-thematic approach was applied to analyze the 119 generated statements. Evaluation of these research statements resulted in full consensus of 84 (70%) items. Our primary findings highlight seven core domains: applicability of assisted dying for dementia; ethical, practical, and pathological issues regarding the application of assisted dying; and ethical, legal, and professional recommendations for the ways forward. Despite the issues surrounding the provision of assisted death for individuals with dementia, our findings lead us to cautiously conclude that devising "adequate" safeguards is achievable. The result of this research may benefit future research and practice.