Music Therapy and Dementia: Rethinking the Debate Over Advance Directives

Ethics Education 20:18-35 (2014)
Abstract
Ronald Dworkin argued that Advance Directives informed by a principle of autonomy ought to guide decisions in relation to the treatment of those in care for dementia. The principle of autonomy in play presupposes a form of competence that is tied to the individual person making the Directive. This paper challenges this individualist assumption. It does so by pointing out that the competence of a patient is inherently relational, and the key illustrative case to make this point is the case of music therapy. In music therapy, a relatively recent treatment modality in aged care, patients previously thought to be permanently unresponsive are shown on the contrary to be capable of significant levels of social agency. The conclusion to draw is that Advance Directives that fail to acknowledge the real possibility of such relational competence are misapplied.
Keywords Music therapy  Dementia  Autonomy  Advance Directive  Neuroethics
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