A Fate Worse than Death? How Biomarkers for Alzheimer's Disease Could Affect End-of-Life Choices
Indiana Health Law Review, 12:2, 652 (2015)
21 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2016
Date Written: March 10, 2016
There is increasing evidence that certain brain changes indicate that a person is at relatively high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Before effective treatment becomes available, many people tested for biomarkers could learn that they are at higher-than-average risk of developing AD. People alarmed at the possibility of losing their mental abilities might act to avoid a future with AD. Some people might resort to pre-emptive suicide after receiving their biomarker test results. Others might make advance treatment directives refusing all life-sustaining interventions and even ordinary food and water if they become cognitively impaired and unable to make their own medical choices. People living in places that permit physician-assisted suicide and active euthanasia might seek medical assistance in dying, either right away or later, through an advance directive requesting death when they exhibit certain AD symptoms. In this essay, I describe research findings on AD biomarkers and their implications for end-of-life practices.
Keywords: dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, end-of-life-care
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