Diagnosis disclosure of prodromal Alzheimer disease-ethical analysis of two cases

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Background: According to a recent proposal for revised diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer disease, the diagnosis could be made even in the absence of impairment of social function or daily life activities, provided positivity of one or more abnormal biomarkers. The use of the new proposed diagnostic criteria raises ethical issues and needs to be carefully evaluated. Method: We describe two clinical cases of prodromal Alzheimer's disease and discuss the diagnosis disclosure, taking into consideration several issues: (i) the issue of the boundary between well founded research procedures and clinical practice, (ii) the issue of the fuzziness of the concepts of scientific evidence and scientific uncertainty, (iii) the issue of patient's autonomy and patient's best interest, and (iv) the issue of the patients' specific personal and social context. Results: The degree of informativeness of the proposed diagnostic criteria for the single patient is already such as to deserve high regard in making the diagnosis and in the diagnosis disclosure process. During the disclosure process, the physician needs to take into account both what is known and what it is not sufficiently known. The patient's personal and environmental conditions should drive the physician to partial or full diagnostic disclosure, or delay communication. Conclusion: We proposed two different diagnosis disclosure processes, on the basis of the common neurological features and of the different global clinical situations, socio-personal contexts and attitudes towards the communication of the diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-75
Number of pages9
JournalCanadian Journal of Neurological Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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