A WOMAN whose husband has suffered from Alzheimer's disease for 17 years has called for the debate over the right to die through assisted suicide to include patients with dementia.

Liz Jamieson, whose husband Hugh was diagnosed with the condition in 1995, said patients who are newly diagnosed should be able to decide, with the help of lawyers and relatives, about ending their lives.

Mrs Jamieson, who lives in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, said that while she knew it was too late for her husband, such a debate might help others.

Groups campaigning for laws to establish a right to die say their plans cannot cover such patients.

However, Mrs Jamieson said: "The point is that few people will think about this because there really isn't enough open debate about it. I am supposed to be an intelligent person and so was Hugh, but we just didn't speak about it. I suppose he was in denial and I didn't want to keep speaking about it."

There are around 85,000 people in Scotland who have been diagnosed with dementia, 60% of whom have Alzheimer's disease. Mr Jamieson, then Aberdeenshire Council's head of roads at Stonehaven, was diagnosed in 1995.

The Shetland-born engineer, now 67, had retired at 55 because of his health. He was taken into care in 2009 when he began having epileptic fits and now cannot speak, feed himself or go the toilet without help.

Mrs Jamieson, a former primary school headteacher, said there should be an open and fully informed debate. She said: "The whole thing could be laid out in black and white as to what is likely to happen. Then it is up the sufferer when to decide when he or she gets to a certain stage, whether they want their life to be brought to a dignified end. But that decision must come from the patient themselves, nobody else."