28 February 2009

Australian research spotlight

Spotlight on Alzheimer’s Australia research grant recipient: Professor Megan-Jane Johnstone (Deakin University) and Dr Olga Kanitsaki (RMIT University)
Dementia News (Alzheimer’s Australia): 21 February 2009

The use and misuse of Alzheimer's disease in the euthanasia/physician assisted suicide debate.

This project, led by Professor Megan-Jane Johnstone of Deakin University and Dr Olga Kanitsaki, AM, of RMIT University, is exploring how Alzheimer’s disease is ‘used’ in the news media, documentaries, films, public opinion polling, professional literature, official documents, and other forms of communication to shape what people think and understand about euthanasia and assisted suicide, and whether these practices should be legalised in Australia. The most significant finding to date is that those on both sides of the euthanasia debate have portrayed facts and opinions about euthanasia, assisted suicide, and the ‘mentally incompetent’ in misleading ways. The news media — arguably the main means by which members of the public are kept informed about the euthanasia debate — have been particularly skilful in using ‘errors in reasoning’ that can easily lead an unsuspecting public into accepting one point of view over another and which may not necessarily be in the interests of people living with Alzheimer’s disease. It is anticipated that by drawing attention to the errors in reasoning discovered in the context of this study, people living with Alzheimer’s disease will be alerted to and become familiar with how spokespersons on both sides of the debate are manipulating public opinion on this difficult and emotionally-charged issue, and the possible implications of this manipulation for public policy development and decision making in end-of-life care.

Professor Johnstone was the recipient of the 2007 Hazel Hawke Research Grant in Dementia Care.

Related information:
Hazel Hawke Research Grant application form 2009 (closes 27 April 2009)

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