People with dementia, and those who care for them, face difficult ethical dilemmas on a day-to-day basis. 

This report concludes that we need to do more as a society to enable people to live well with dementia. We present an ethical framework to help address problems that arise in connection with dementia care, together with recommendations for policy makers.

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Genetics and behaviour

Research is exploring how genes and the environment influence behavioural traits such as aggression, anxiety, intelligence and sexual orientation.

This report addresses concerns over how this information could be used to try to predict, change or select such traits.

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Mental disorders

Research into the genetics of mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease and depression, may help diagnosis and treatment.

This report considers the ethical concerns raised, for example, around reproductive decisions and stigma.

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Mental disorders - Chapter downloads

You can download the individual chapters of this report using the links below. (All files are PDFs and less than 150KB).

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Chapter 2 - Definition and study of mental disorders

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Mental disorders - Key findings

This report examines the ethical issues that may arise in the course of genetic research into mental disorders and in the application of that research in clinical and other settings. Some of these issues arise because the conditions are genetic, and others because they relate to mental disorders.

A broad and humanistic perspective may be considered to have two basic ethical requirements: respect for human beings and human dignity, and the limitation of harm to, and suffering of, all human beings.

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Mental disorders - External consultation

A public consultation was launched in February 1997. More than 100 responses were received from a wide variety of organisations and individuals. Respondents included:

  • individual clinicians and scientists

  • other academics and individuals

  • charities and other organisations

  • mental health user groups, learned and professional organisations and regulatory bodies

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Mental disorders - Terms of reference

(1) To survey the current field of research relating to the genetics of mental disorders and to report on recent and prospective advances.

(2) In particular, to review:

(a) whether there are sufficiently firm criteria for diagnosis;

(b) how substantial the evidence is implicating genetic influences.

(3) To review the potential clinical applications of the research.

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Dementia - Making decisions

Download a PDF of Chapter 5 - Making decisions (838KB)

People have the legal right to make their own decisions about things such as what medical treatment to accept or where to live, as long as they are capable of doing so. This applies to people with dementia too. As dementia progresses, however, it can get harder for people to make their own decisions.

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Dementia - Ethical framework

Download a PDF of Chapter 2 - An ethical framework (799KB)

The report sets out a 6–part ‘ethical framework’ to help those who face dilemmas in connection with the day-to-day care of someone with dementia.

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