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Allow dementia patients to request assisted death in advance, group urges

The advocacy organization Dying With Dignity is urging federal and provincial legislators to allow people diagnosed with dementia to make advance requests for assisted death while they are still cognitively able to make the choice.

Incoming CEO Shanaaz Gokool says without a legal advance directive those with degenerative illnesses like Alzheimer's face a cruel choice – to end their lives too early while still sound of mind or to suffer until natural death occurs.

A poll commissioned by Dying With Dignity suggests 80 per cent of Canadians agree that individuals with a terminal medical condition like dementia should be permitted to consent to assisted death in advance.

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The poll of more than 2,500 Canadians comes as federal lawmakers prepare new regulations for physician-assisted dying, which will become legal in June following a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last February.

The court struck down the Criminal Code ban on assisted dying for those who are suffering intolerably from a grievous and irremediable illness and who clearly consent to the termination of life.

The poll also found that 85 per cent of respondents support the Supreme Court decision, and that support for allowing advanced directives was strong in every region of the country.

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