In Australia, and most Western nations, particularly the English-speaking ones, we have turned individualism and the “right to autonomy” into unquestionable dogma of religious proportions, irrespective of context or any other consideration.
In my book I posit that the most important element of context is the relationships that we are in. The most important relationship is with our life partner. Furthermore, dementia afflicts both participants in that relationship. It does not just happen to an individual like measles, a broken arm, or being run over by a truck.
I believe that forming a lasting relationship with a life partner is the most fundamental human need, and consequently should be a human right. My contribution to the political debate on Marriage Equality in Australia last year is also posted here.
In the book I give several examples where the legally enforced “right to make autonomous decisions” led to great harm and distress for both partners.
I recently heard about the intended appointment of a Minister for Loneliness in the UK early this year. This followed the release of the report of The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. Jo Cox was a socially activist politician who was murdered by a right-wing extremist in 2016.
The data cited in the report is obviously from several sources. Age UK sites similar information and more detailed information. The following items are examples:
None of this comes as a surprise to me because I learn all this from both “the patient” and the partner when I conduct an initial assessment in any and every setting.
It is difficult to understand how the obsession with Individualism and Autonomy, and its political equivalent Self-Interest and Isolationism continues to hold sway. Can it be that it may have something to do with the appeal to Populism?
Dr Mykyta was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for services to Geriatric Medicine and medical education in 2012. He has practised medicine for over 50 years and still travels all over South Australia seeing patients. He has treated close to 10,000 patients with Dementia.