Other Free Encyclopedias » Medicine Encyclopedia » Aging Healthy - Part 1 » Dementia: Ethical Issues - Dementia And Moral Standing, Truth Telling, Autonomy, New Medications, A Natural Dying, The Right To Well-being

Dementia: Ethical Issues - Truth Telling

disease diagnosis alzheimer patients

There is a consensus among medical ethicists that patients should be told the truth about a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or any other dementing illness. This is also their legal right. By the late 1990s, especially with the advent of new treatments for the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, and with more accurate diagnosis, nearly all clinicians informed patients of their diagnosis. The discovery of inheritance patterns, emerging treatments, and the general public awareness of Alzheimer's disease contributed to a noticeable swing toward diagnostic truth telling.

The question now is not whether to tell the truth, but how to tell it in a sensitive and supportive manner that does not create unnecessary despair and that, as far as possible, maintains hope. Professionals should assure patients that there are many ways to ensure good care and the treatment of the symptoms of dementia throughout its progression (Zarit and Downs, 1999).

Truth telling allows the person with the diagnosis to plan for optimal life experiences in remaining years of intact capacities, prepare a durable power of attorney for health care decisions—some may also prepare a living will—to be implemented upon eventual incompetence, and participate actively in Alzheimer's disease support groups, to which referrals should always be made.

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