Michael Gordon, MD, MSc, FRCPC, Medical Program Director, Palliative Care, Baycrest Geriatric Health Care System, Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.
The last decade has seen an enormous growth in the interest in the recognition of and intervention in those diagnosed and living with the whole range of cognitive impairment and frank dementia. In the western world, the recognition of the impact on patients, families, health care systems, and societies that dementia poses has led to great efforts to help define the indicators for current and future dementia with the intention to treat those already afflicted even with the primarily symptomatic medications that exist and to recognize those at future risk with the hope of providing counselling to forestall its future development. The idea of "early diagnosis" appears at first glance to be attractive for the purposes of future planning and research studies, but it is not clear what the benefits and risks might be if screening processes define people at risk when beneficial interventions might not yet be determined. The ethical as well as financial implications must be explored and defined before implementation of such screening becomes a normal standard of practice.practice.
Key Words: cognitive impairment, dementia, screening, biomarkers, cognitive testing.