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Date of Award

1991

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Philosophy

Supervisor

J.E. Thomas

Abstract

Alzheimer's Disease research is troubled by ethical problems in respect to the research design, subject selection and obtaining a valid consent. In the thesis, these ethical issues are examined with particular attention being paid to the question of whether Alzheimer's Disease patients can be involved in research offering no promise of benefits to these vulnerable subjects.

Drawing from both deontological and consequentialist ethical theories, a resolution of some of the ethical issues is proposed. Although many Alzheimer patients are no longer autonomous, they do continue to have moral worth and therefore, should be respected by society. Also, the requirement of competency for consent to be a research subject is explored and a more demanding standard of competency to consent to research participation is recommended.

The ethical tension in Alzheimer's Disease is not confined to balancing respect for the subject's autonomy with the need to learn more about this devastating disease but also, involves balancing the need to respect and protect a vulnerable population while supporting research striving to reduce the human and economic costs of Alzheimer's Disease. The proposed resolution of this ethical tension is based on a reevaluation of the requirements for an ethical design and a valid consent in the context of Alzheimer's Disease.

Recommendations on the conduct of Alzheimer's Disease are proposed which can be integrated into current research guidelines. These recommendations may also be of assistance to researchers working with other vulnerable patients.

Respect for weak and vulnerable subjects is the ethical priority and serves to restrict some types of Alzheimer's Disease. However, it is proposed that Alzheimer's Disease patients may be involved in clinical research not likely to benefit them directly, and is not expected to harm the subject on condition that the proposed, stringent rules regarding their participation are followed.

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