Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics

Special Section: Elder Ethics

Dementia in Our Midst: The Moral Community

Stephen G. Posta1

a1 Associate Professor of Biomedical Ethics and Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy in the Center for Biomedical Ethics, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio

This article focuses on the elderly patient with a progressive and irreversible dementia, most often of the Alzheimer type. However dementia, the decline in mental function from a previous state, can occur in all ages. For example, if Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the dementia of the elderly, increasingly AIDS is the dementia of many who are relatively young. I will not present the major ethical issues relating to dementia care following the progression of disease from the mild to the severe stages, for I have done this elsewhere. Among the issues included are: presymptomatic testing, both psychological and genetic; responsible diag- nostic disclosure and use of support groups; restrictions on driving and other activities; preemptive assisted suicide; advance directives for research and treatment; quality of life in relation to the use of life-extending technologies; and euthanasia.