A Fate Worse than Death? How Biomarkers for Alzheimer's Disease Could Affect End-of-Life Choices

21 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2016  

Rebecca Dresser

Washington University in Saint Louis - School of Law

Date Written: March 10, 2016

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Dresser, Rebecca, A Fate Worse than Death? How Biomarkers for Alzheimer's Disease Could Affect End-of-Life Choices (March 10, 2016). Indiana Health Law Review, 12:2, 652 (2015); Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 16-03-01. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2746173

Rebecca Dresser (Contact Author)

Washington University in Saint Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
44
Abstract Views
146