Ethical care in dementia

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b3993 (Published 02 October 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3993
  1. Marja-Liisa Laakkonen, geriatrician 1,
  2. Kaisu Pitkälä, professor of general practice and primary health care2
  1. 1Helsinki Health Centre, Geriatric Memory Clinic, Laakso Hospital, PO Box 6600, FIN-00099, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2Helsinki University Hospital, Unit of General Practice, Tukholmankatu 8 B, 00290 Helsinki, Finland
  1. marja-liisa.laakkonen{at}hel.fi

    Requires respect for patient autonomy, partnership with families, and education

    More than 24 million people are living with dementia worldwide,1 and this figure is expected to double every 20 years.1 Dementia is an age related disease—about 25% of Europeans aged 85 or more are affected.1 The increasing number of people with dementia is challenging for their families and carers, and for health services. In addition to the physical, emotional, and social aspects of caring for someone with dementia, there are also ethical aspects, which are often poorly understood and overlooked. On 1 October 2009, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics published the report Dementia: ethical issues,2 which provides practical tools to help health professionals understand and support patients with dementia and their carers. The report emphasises that offering these patients and their carers certain services is not enough; rather, we should be aware of our attitudes and values and how we communicate with them.

    The report considers general ethical questions and practical matters arising during the course of the illness. The basic premise is that people with dementia can have a good quality of life …

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