Advance directives as a tool to respect patients’ values and preferences: discussion on the case of Alzheimer’s disease

BMC Medical Ethics 19 (1):9 (2018)
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The proposal of the new criteria for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease based on biomarker data is making possible a diagnosis of AD at the mild cognitive impairment or predementia/prodromal– stage. Given the present lack of effective treatments for AD, the opportunity for the individuals to personally take relevant decisions and plan for their future before and if cognitive deterioration occurs is one the main advantages of an early diagnosis. Advance directives are largely seen as an effective tool for planning medical care in the event the subject becomes incompetent. Nevertheless, their value has been questioned with regard to people with dementia by scholars who refer to the arguments of personal identity and of patient’s changing interests before and after the onset of dementia. In this paper, I discuss the value of advance directives in Alzheimer’s disease and other kind of dementia. Despite critics, I argue that advance directives are especially advisable in dementia and provide reasons in favor of their promotion at an early stage of the disease as a valuable tool to respect patients’ values and preferences on medical treatment, including participation in research and end of life decisions. I mainly support advance directives that include both decisions regarding health care and the appointment of an attorney in fact. I conclude that patients with AD at a prodromal or early stage should be offered the opportunity to execute an advance directive, and that not to honor a demented individual’s directive would be an unacceptable form of discrimination towards those patients.



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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
Advance Directives, Dementia, and Physician‐Assisted Death.Paul T. Menzel & Bonnie Steinbock - 2013 - Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 41 (2):484-500.
Advance Directives, Dementia, and Physician-Assisted Death.Paul T. Menzel & Bonnie Steinbock - 2013 - Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 41 (2):484-500.

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