A woman dying of Alzheimer’s has fever. Should she be given antibiotics? Many people would say yes. But a provocative new study suggests that antibiotics are overused in people dying of dementia diseases and should be considered more carefully because of the growing problems of drug-resistant superbugs.
The study raises ethical questions about when it’s acceptable to withhold perhaps futile treatment and let people die,and whether public health issues should ever be considered."Advanced dementia is a terminal illness," said study co-author Dr Susan Mitchell,a senior scientist with the Harvard-affiliated Hebrew Senior Life Institute for Aging Research in Boston."If we substituted ‘end stage cancer’ for ‘advanced dementia’, I don’t think people would have any problem understanding this."
Antibiotic overuse contributes to the rise of superbugs,so experts have been calling on doctors to curb the liberal prescribing of antibiotics in many types of patients,including children with earaches and adults with sore throats.