Harvard Forum: Should Older Politicians And Judges Be Tested For Mental Decline? image

WBUR, November 17, 2017
Carey Goldberg, describing the "Dementia and Democracy" event


Read the Full Article

This article describes the event "Dementia and Democracy: America's Aging Judges and Politicians," held on November 15, 2017 at Harvard Law School. 

The speculation spreads every time an older politician of either party blunders verbally or seems to lose the thread: Is it Alzheimer's? Early dementia? Impaired judgment?

Professor Francis Shen of the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior shared a crop of typical headlines at a Harvard Law School Petrie-Flom Center forum called "Dementia and Democracy" this week. They included politicians of various stripes targeted by weaselly phrases like "may have Alzheimer's" and "may have early-onset dementia."

He followed them up with a slide pleading in huge letters: "Surely we can do better than this."

Shen's central point: Politicians, who have huge advantages as incumbents, and federal judges, who serve for life, tend to stay on the job well past typical retirement ages. Yet we know that some cognitive decline with age is normal, and that the risk of dementia skyrockets as we get older.

So it's reasonable to conclude that some judges and politicians are no longer up to their tasks. But their cognitive failings can often be very difficult to pin down. (Recall the murmurs about President Reagan, who was later diagnosed with Alzheimer's.) Hence the headlines. [...]

Read the full article here

Go to our website here to see video and slides from the event. 

bioethics health law policy neuroscience research