An Ageing Population Creates New Challenges Around Consent to Medical Treatment

An Ageing Population Creates New Challenges Around Consent to Medical Treatment
Alice L. Holmes, Joseph E. Ibrahim
Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, 5 July 2021
Obtaining consent for medical treatment in older adults raises a number of complex challenges. Despite being required by ethics and the law, consent for medical treatment is not always validly sought in this population. The dynamic nature of capacity, particularly in individuals who have dementia or other cognitive impairments, adds complexity to obtaining consent. Further challenges arise in ensuring that older people comprehend the medical treatment information provided and that consent is not vitiated by coercion or undue influence. Existing mechanisms to address issues surrounding consent for older adults only address incapacity and raise further challenges. As the ageing population increases, these issues are likely to become more profound, thus action is required to address these challenges. Raising awareness, more education, engaging with people with dementia, and conducting further research would assist in beginning to overcome these challenges.

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