Alzheimer’s Blood Test Raises Ethical Questions

NPR reported on an experimental blood test that can identify people in their 70s who are likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease in the next two or three years. Dr. Jason Karlawish, Associate Director of the Penn Memory Center, was interviewed on the ethical implications of such a test.

The knowledge of one’s risk of Alzheimer’s can be a good thing, says Dr. Karlawish, and that has been shown among people who chose to be tested for a gene that increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, he adds.

“Knowing their risk of developing cognitive impairment is very relevant to making plans around retirement and where they live,” he says. “So there is certainly a role for knowing that information.”

But the biggest concern about Alzheimer’s testing probably has to do with questions of stigma and identity, Dr. Karlawish says. “How will other people interact with you if they learn that you have this information?” he says. “And how will you think about your own brain and your sort of sense of self?”

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