Clinical Edge

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AD biomarker not tied to increased interest in physician-assisted death

Key clinical point: Patients who recently learned they have an increased biological risk of Alzheimer’s disease did not display increased consideration of physician-assisted death.

Major finding: Nearly two-thirds of interviewees who were diagnosed with elevated amyloid beta stated that they neither had, nor would, consider physician-assisted death.

Study details: An analysis of interviews on physician-assisted death with 80 clinical trial enrollees who may or may not have had a biomarker that increased their risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Disclosures: The study was supported by grants from the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging. One author reported grants from those two organizations during the study; another reported grants from Lilly and Novartis. No other conflicts of interest were reported.

Citation:

Largent EA et al. JAMA Neurol. 2019 Apr 29. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2019.0797.

Commentary:

The fascinating thing about this study is that the idea for it arose when some of the individuals spontaneously mentioned assisted suicide during their initial interview, Annette L. Hanson, MD, said in an interview.

“This doesn’t surprise me,” Dr. Hanson said. “The interviews began in November 2014, literally the week after Brittany Maynard killed herself. Maynard was, and continues to be, the face of the assisted suicide movement as promoted by Compassion & Choices.” Ms. Maynard, who had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, announced her intention to move to Oregon to end her life in early 2014. “By October 2014, her face had been plastered on the cover of People magazine, and her story was featured on CNN and the Washington Post,” Dr. Hanson said. “This illustrates the effect of the right-to-die movement on suicide prevention.

“Would these subjects have thought of suicide in the absence of the Brittany Maynard publicity campaign? I doubt it.”

Dr. Hanson, a forensic psychiatrist, is assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland and at Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore.