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International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease
Volume 2010 (2010), Article ID 841941, 4 pages
Review Article

To Know or Not to Know: Ethical Issues Related to Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease

1Clinical Neurochemistry Laboratory, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry, The Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, 431 80 Mölndal, Sweden
2Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden

Received 19 April 2010; Accepted 7 May 2010

Academic Editor: Lucilla Parnetti

Copyright © 2010 Niklas Mattsson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In Alzheimer's disease (AD), pathological processes start in the brain long before clinical dementia. Biomarkers reflecting brain alterations may therefore indicate disease at an early stage, enabling early diagnosis. This raises several ethical questions and the potential benefits of early diagnosis must be weighted against possible disadvantages. Currently, there are few strong arguments favouring early diagnosis, due to the lack of disease modifying therapy. Also, available diagnostic methods risk erroneous classifications, with potentially grave consequences. However, a possible benefit of early diagnosis even without disease modifying therapy is that it may enable early decision making when patients still have full decision competence, avoiding problems of hypothetical consents. It may also help identifying patients with cognitive dysfunction secondary to other diseases that may be responsive to treatment already today.