Tests detect early onset Alzheimer’s but, without a cure or treatment, should they?

Dec 22, 2010

Advances in spinal taps and M.R.I.’s now make it more possible than ever for doctors to run diagnostic tests to diagnose early onset Alzheimer’s. But should they? There’s still no treatment for the degenerative brain disease or even a test to verify a patient is suffering from Alzheimer’s and not severe dementia. That moral dilemma is cropping up in various areas of medicine as technology for diagnostic tools bounds ahead of treatment research. With tests that can spot or predict disease decades in advance of symptoms but with no way to prevent or treat those diseases, is it worth knowing? Some doctors say no and even refuse to administer the tests, arguing the results do more to burden patients with information overload than to help them prepare to make life-changing decisions. Would you want to know even if there was nothing you could do to change the outcome?

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