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Alzheimer disease and pre-emptive suicide

Abstract

There is a flood of papers being published on new ways to diagnose Alzheimer disease (AD) before it is symptomatic, involving a combination of invasive tests (eg, spinal tap), and pen and paper tests. This changes the landscape with respect to genetic tests for risk of AD, making rational suicide a much more feasible option. Before the availability of these presymptomatic tests, even someone with a high risk of developing AD could not know if and when the disease was approaching. One could lose years of good life by committing suicide too soon, or risk waiting until it was too late and dementia had already sapped one of the ability to form and carry out a plan. One can now put together what one knows about one's risk, with continuing surveillance via these clinical tests, and have a good strategy for planning one's suicide before one becomes demented. This has implications for how these genetic and clinical tests are marketed and deployed, and the language one uses to speak about them. The phrase ‘there is nothing one can do’ is insulting and disrespectful of the planned suicide option, as is the language of the Risk Evaluation and Education for Alzheimer's Disease (REVEAL) studies and others that conclude that it is ‘safe’ to tell subjects their risk status for AD. Further, the argument put forward by some researchers that presymptomatic testing should remain within research protocols, and the results not shared with subjects until such time as treatments become available, disrespects the autonomy of people at high risk who consider suicide an option.

  • Autonomy
  • Suicide/Assisted Suicide
  • Dementia

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