Being diagnosed with an elevated amyloid-beta biomarker that indicates greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease did not lead to increased consideration of physician-assisted death (PAD), according to an analysis of patients interviewed during clinical trials on cognitive decline.
“Our findings suggest that learning one’s amyloid imaging result does not change baseline attitudes regarding the acceptability of PAD,” wrote, of the department of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and coauthors. The study was published as a research letter in .
Participants were recruited from two ongoing clinical trials, one of which included patients with elevated amyloid-beta (n = 50), whereas the other did not (n = 30). All participants completed an interview 4-12 weeks after receiving their biomarker results; 47 and 30 participants, respectively, also completed a follow-up interview at 12 months.
When asked whether they had considered PAD, nearly two-thirds of interviewees with the Alzheimer’s disease biomarker stated that they neither had nor would. Roughly one in five from that group said they would pursue PAD if they began to suffer from cognitive impairment or became a burden on others. Interviewees who did not have elevated amyloid beta, when asked whether a reversed result would have led to PAD or suicide, showed interest in roughly similar proportion to their at-risk counterparts.
The coauthors acknowledged the limitations of their study, including not asking about other end-of-life preferences or perceived quality of life for people with dementia. They also noted that, although their sample mirrors the populations of the two studies they drew from, “its homogeneity limits generalizability.” As such, they stressed that
The study was supported by grants from the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging. One author reported receiving grants from those two organizations during the study; another reported receiving grants from Lilly and Novartis. No other conflicts of interest were reported.
SOURCE: Largent EA et al. JAMA Neurol. 2019 Apr 29. .