In this article we present an inventory of the moral intuitions of the health care workers who work in the field of early detection of dementia. The effects of pharmacological treatment and professional care and support may improve when dementia is detected in an early stage. Furthermore, the patient (and his family) can prepare themselves for the period to come. Health care workers recognize moral problems and tensions concerning early detection that are related to the question whether persons will benefit from knowledge in an earlier stage of dementia, because this knowledge can be a heavy burden. We asked general practitioners, home care workers, employees of the so-called 'Memory clinic' and specialists, what ethical intuitions they recognize in practice. They mentioned the following questions: when are health care professionals allowed to take initiative, is causing worries and concerns problematic, and should a diagnosis always to be told? We conclude after a first analysis that many moral questions derive from the fact that many health care professionals lack knowledge of the wishes and interests of the elderly. At the same time they try to justify their actions on the (presupposed) consent of the elderly person. We suggest that the general norm 'only act when the patient wants to be helped' in health care should also apply to detection of dementia, although it should not be taken too strictly. Another justification for early detection can be found in the benefits for the elderly people, when their wishes are no longer expressed.
|Tijdschrift voor gerontologie en geriatrie
|Published - 2002