Alzheimer’s dis­cus­sion shouldn’t fo­cus on num­ber of deaths

Modern Healthcare - - COMMENT -

Re­gard­ing the ar­ti­cle “Alzheimer’s may be leading cause of death af­ter heart dis­ease, cancer,” (Mod­ern­Health­care.com, March 7), it is my ex­pe­ri­ence that Alzheimer’s dis­ease claims more lives than are re­ported on death cer­tifi­cates that spell out pneu­mo­nia or urosep­sis in­stead of the un­der­ly­ing cause. But people who write ar­ti­cles such as this for­get that death is one of the few zero-sum games—the de­nom­i­na­tor is al­ways 100% of hu­mans. Hu­mans have to die of some­thing, and if we re­duce the num­ber of people dy­ing of Alzheimer’s, it will in­crease the por­tion of people dy­ing of some­thing else.

No­body wants to see their par­ents or them­selves suf­fer from the loss of their minds and mem­o­ries—that’s the rea­son to look for treat­ments, not that the dis­ease pro­duces death. Be­fore we spend more money look­ing for ways to live longer, maybe we should con­cen­trate some money on mak­ing old age worth liv­ing. The num­ber of elders who would pre­fer a quick, peace­ful death to wak­ing up the next day is higher than you think.

Dr. Lou Lukas Chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer Hospice of the Ch­e­sa­peake Pasadena, Md.

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