Neurological researchers have recently announced the remarkable discovery of a spinal fluid test that may be nearly 100% accurate in predicting the development of Alzheimer’s disease . Although the study focused on individuals who were already showing signs of memory impairment, doctors hope eventually this or another test might be used before the development of significant symptoms as a preventative measure.
As an individual already genetically vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease, I wonder if I would want to take such a test with only two possible outcomes. Obviously relief and gratitude would be in order with a negative result, and I suspect my life probably wouldn’t change much as a result. I would continue on the same path forward. But testing positive for Alzheimer’s, knowing at some future point in my life I would develop the mind-robbing disease, would necessitate endless and difficult deliberations because I’ve already seen the devastating progression of this illness from beginning to end.
Would I adopt a devil-may-care attitude and behave recklessly, depleting all my savings and abandoning my dreams to satisfy my present desires without regard for the future? Quit my job and hop on the first plane heading for Europe or Hawaii? Or would I spiral into a deep depression and become unwilling and unable to enjoy any part of my current life with those I love most? Would I pursue treatment to slow the onslaught of the disease, or would I simply surrender to my fate at a later unknown date? Could I accept my bleak future of total dependence on others to care for me?
If medical innovation will one day provide a 100% accurate test for Alzheimer’s disease, from a financial standpoint I would want to know how the test results would affect my future healthcare options. Would a positive result be documented in my permanent medical record as a black mark against me? Would Alzheimer’s become a pre-existing condition making it impossible to receive health or long-term care insurance coverage? Would preventative treatment even be provided by insurance policies? In all honesty, I don’t know if I would want to take a test like this. It is impossible to calculate based on too many consequences and variables to plug into the equation.
Would you want to learn the results of a 100% accurate test to determine whether or not you might develop Alzheimer’s disease at a later time in your life? Would you encourage someone you love to take this test? Let me know your thoughts on the subject.
Photo courtesy of digitalbob8