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

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BACKGROUND: The proposal of the new criteria for the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD) based on biomarker data is making possible a diagnosis of AD at the mild cognitive impairment (MCI) 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.

MAIN BODY: 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.

CONCLUSION: 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9
JournalBMC Medical Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 20 2018


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