Sunday, June 12, 2011

Terry Pratchett Considers His Options to Letting Alzheimer's Kill Him

“It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It's called living.” - Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld novels, is hoping to die with his dignity intact.  Mr. Pratchett has been suffering from Alzheimer's since 2007 and he is rather courageously considering whether or not he wants to end his life while he is still in a position to make decision for himself.  Pratchett announced on his illustrator's website in December 2007 that he was suffering from the disease.  This came as a huge shock to the author's fans since he was only 59 years of age when the diagnoses was made public.

I noted the announcement here on Book Chase on December 12, 2007 with some detail about why Pratchett had decided to go public about his illness.

Now, according to the Guardian, Pratchett is ready to consider his options before it is too late for him to have a say in how the end of his story is to ultimately play out:
Sir Terry Pratchett, the fantasy writer who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2008, said yesterday he had started the formal process that could lead to his own assisted suicide at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.


Pratchett, whose BBC2 film about the subject of assisted suicide is to be shown on BBC2 tomorrow, revealed he had been sent the consent forms requesting a suicide by the clinic and planned to sign them imminently.
Sad as this is, it brings to mind the even sadder end of one of Pratchett's fellow British writers, Iris Murdoch, in whom the devastating disease ran its full course before her death.  Unfair as I know it is, it somehow bothers me more when Alzheimer's claims one of the world's great thinkers than when it strikes a more "normal" person.  I know just how unfair that feeling is because, as I type this, we are dealing with what the disease is doing to my mother-in-law, one of those more "normal" victims.  What a horrible, horrible disease this is.

14 comments:

  1. My mother-in-law is going through it as well. You said it all with horrible.

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  2. Lost my father to AD. He died last June, but was gone for so long before that. When Pratchett made his announcement, I,too, was stunned. It is a long, hard death, and I completely understand his choice.

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  3. John, you know, I would be happy to see this disease cured even before cancer. I cannot imagine a more tragic death than dying from Alzheimer's. I sincerely believe that Pratchett is making the right call for himself.

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  4. Jenclair, it is a difficult thing to watch, so I can imagine what you and your family went through. It takes courage and strong character to take the situation in hand the way Pratchett is handling things.

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  5. My mom had altzheimer's for 15 years. Her siblings and her mother had as well.
    Could it be in my future, my chances are very high.
    Scary isn't it?

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  6. Very scary, Marjorie. This disease is going to become a huge, huge problem for the health care industry all around the world as people continue to live longer and longer. Hopefully, there will be a medical breakthrough soon.

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  7. I sure hope so.
    If you get a chance and are interested in this subject read
    Still Alice, it really opened my eyes.

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  8. I know exactly how Pratchett feels. I'm about his age and, although I have no symptoms of Alzheimer's, I realize it's a very real possibility for my future. I, too, have given thought to the idea of a dignified death at my own hands, if it comes to that, rather than wait for the disease to turn me into a mushroom with legs.
    No need for a trip to Switzerland, though. My deliverance, should I seek it, will come courtesy of Messrs Smith and Wesson. Never known to fail.

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  9. Thanks for the book recommendation, Marjorie. There's a great song about an Alzheimer's victim by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver called "Saving Grace." You might want to give that a listen some time.

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  10. "Anonymous," thanks for your comments. Be aware, though, that your method of choice has failed to be fatal on many occasions and has created brain-damaged living corpses, as a result. You don't want that.

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  11. I wholeheartedly endorse the comments made here, and particularly agree with Marjorie's recommendation of the book 'Still Alice', it made me think long and hard, and review some of my more entrenched beliefs.

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  12. I really do have to look for that book, herschelian...maybe next week when I get back home. Thanks for the endorsement.

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  13. My grandfather has Alzheimers and it is a horrible disease, though once it really progresses, I think the disease is worse for the family and friends than for the person who has it.

    As much as I struggle with the morality of suicide, I can totally understand Pratchett's decision, and I'm not sure I wouldn't decide to do the exact same thing in his situation.

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  14. I think you're right, Annie, that the family of an Alzheimer's patient suffers more than the patient toward the end. It is a terrible thing to watch.

    I agree with you that Pratchett is considering the most logical solution to a situation that cannot possibly end well. This is a chance to leave this Earth with dignity.

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