Advance Directives and Discrimination against People with Dementia

Hastings Center Report 48 (4):26-27 (2018)
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Abstract

In the article “On Avoiding Deep Dementia,” Norman Cantor defends a position that I suspect many readers share. In my years writing and speaking on advance directives and dementia, I've found that most people support one of two positions. They are convinced either that advance choices should control the treatment dementia patients receive or that the welfare of a person with dementia should sometimes take priority over earlier choices. As Cantor points out, I support the second position.I agree with several of Cantor's arguments. Where Cantor and I part ways is over the degree of control that advance directives should exert over the care of persons with moderate dementia. Although I don't welcome the prospect of living with dementia, I believe that people with the condition should be represented in the debate over treatment standards. It's not surprising that many, perhaps most, people unaffected by dementia think that their preferences should control the care they would receive as dementia patients. But people taking this position are neglecting the concerns and interests they may have as dementia patients.

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