Metaphors, stigma and the ‘Alzheimerization’ of the euthanasia debate

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This paper reports the findings of an unobtrusive research inquiry investigating the possible use and misuse of Alzheimer's disease in public policy debate on the legalization of euthanasia. The component of the study being reported identified the problematic use of five key metaphors: the Alzheimer metaphor, which in turn was reinforced by three additional metaphors - the epidemic metaphor, the military metaphor, and the predatory thief metaphor; and the euthanasia metaphor. All metaphors were found to be morally loaded and used influentially to stigmatize Alzheimer's disease and mediate public opinion supporting the legalization of euthanasia as an end-of-life ‘solution’ for people with the disease. It is contended that, in the interests of promoting intellectual honesty and giving proper recognition to the extraordinary complexity of the issue, the problematic use and influence of metaphoric thinking in the public debate about Alzheimer's disease and euthanasia needs to be made transparent, questioned and challenged.

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