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Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal
Ethics and Aging: Challenges for the Dental Practitioner
Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, The George Washington University, Washington DC 20037; Sharmila Chatterjee's Analytical Science Initiative (SCASI), Gaithersburg, MD 20877
Advances in health care and public health practice are enabling Americans to live longer. The US Bureau of Census projects that the population aged 65 years and older is expected to increase from 40 million in 2009 to 70 million in 2030. Health and aging, often associated with real-life complexities and challenging physiological and psychosocial problems in the elderly, precipitate ethical dilemmas and raise the question of appropriate care. These elderly people have several comorbidities and lose their independence due to neurodegenerating diseases, providing several issues, such as extent of treatment, quality and validity of informed consent, autonomy, and health care resource allocation. A discussion on ethics related to health care practice in the elderly is therefore of particular importance in the light of such current demographic shifts. This article views these ethical issues through the perspective of oral health care and provides a review of some of the ethical dilemmas that caregivers including dental practitioners should be familiar with while caring for the elderly population.
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