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Best interests, dementia, and end of life decision-making: the case of Mrs S


In this paper, I present an ethical analysis of the case of an elderly woman with dementia, Mrs S. The hospital treating Mrs S sought to cease her dialysis treatment despite Mrs S’s family’s protestations that continuing the treatment was in her best interests. Assuming Brock’s framework as a theoretical background, I consider the case in terms of three questions. Firstly, was ‘best interests ’ the appropriate basis for deciding on a course of action in this situation? Secondly, assuming the appropriateness of a best interests principle, was it in Mrs S’s best interests for the dialysis treatment to be withdrawn as the hospital suggested? And thirdly, if it was in Mrs S’s best interests for dialysis to be withdrawn, was the hospital right to pursue this course of action in light of the family’s disagreement? Based on the changes to the patient’s ‘self ’ associated with dementia, I argue that a best interests principle was appropriate, that continuing dialysis was not in Mrs S’s best interests, and that the hospital should have pursued cessation of treatment even in light of the family’s contrary wishes.

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Correspondence to Rosalind McDougall.

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McDougall, R. Best interests, dementia, and end of life decision-making: the case of Mrs S. Monash Bioethics Review 24, 36–46 (2005).

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  • Dementia
  • Advance Directive
  • Dementia Patient
  • Dialysis Treatment
  • Monash Bioethic Review