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Person & Demenz

Person & Dementia:
Conference, 10. / 11. July 2014

The increasing number of persons suffering from dementia poses a serious and unresolved social challenge. The interdisciplinary research consortium “Person and dementia” has made a contribution to this challenge by investigating the significance of dementia for individuals in view of being a person, by examining which concept of disease is most appropriate in this context and by considering the influence of dementia on decision-making, both in the clinical context as well as in the research context. The final conference will present conceptual considerations and results of the empirical parts of the project and link them to an international perspective on the issue. For this purpose, renowned experts from Europe, the U.S. and Israel will join the conference and discuss the findings of the research consortium.



  • Prof. Dr. med. Andreas Bauer (University of Düsseldorf / Jülich Research Centre)
    Professor of Neurology, University Hospital of Düsseldorf, Director of the Institute for Neurosciences and Medicine at the Research Centre Jülich
  • Prof. Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, Ph.D. (University of Tel Aviv)
    Professor at the Department of Health Promotion at the School of Public Health, Director of the Minerva Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of the End of Life
  • Assoc. Prof. Dr. phil. Eugenijus Gefenas (University of Vilnius)
    Associate Professor at the University of Vilnius, Head of the Department of Medical History and Ethics
  • Prof. em. Dr. med. Hanfried Helmchen (Free University of Berlin)
    Professor Emeritus, 1971-1999 Professor of Psychiatry, Director of the Psychiatric Clinic and Polyclinic
  • Bruce Jennings, M.A. (Center for Humans & Nature Chicago/New York)
    Director of Bioethics
  • Prof. Dr. phil. Dr. h.c. Andreas Kruse (University of Heidelberg)
    Professor of Gerontology, Director of the Institute of Gerontology
  • Prof. Dr. med. Wolfgang Maier (University of Bonn)
    Professor of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Director of the Clinic and Polyclinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy
  • Prof. Dr. Dieter Sturma (University of Bonn)
    Chair of Philosophy with special regard to the Ethics in the Biosciences, Director of the Institute for Science and Ethics, Director of the German Reference Centre for Ethics in the Life Sciences, Director of the Institute for Ethics in the Neurosciences (INM 8) at the Jülich Research Centre
  • Prof. Ruud ter Meulen, Ph.D. (University of Bristol, School of Social and Community Science)
    Professor of Ethics in Medicine, Director of the Centre for Ethics in Medicine



Dementia, a collection of syndromes as defined in ICD-10, ranks among the most prominent impairments in older age. Considering the rising percentage of elderly people in society and the increasing probability of developing dementia at higher age it must be concluded that, at least in the industrialized countries, the proportion of people with dementia will grow significantly in the nearer future. It is expected that in Germany 1.8 million people will suffer from dementia in 2030, and more than 2.5 million people in 2050. For Europe estimations amount to 14 million in 2030 and 29 million in 2050, worldwide the numbers are 66 million in 2030 and 115 million in 2050, respectively. For affected persons dementia entails severe restrictions in their conduct of life and often grave suffering. Relatives and caregivers have to cope with considerable emotional as well as material pressures. Private and public healthcare systems, even in the case of suboptimal provisions, face tremendous financial challenges. Correspondingly, great efforts in medicine and the biosciences are being undertaken in order to develop diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic instruments that might help to detect dementia at early stages, to limit its impact or, possibly, to treat the symptoms. At present, however, no modifiable risk factors for dementia are known that can definitely preclude its incidence. Similarly, no measures are available that can halt or reverse the course of the disease. It has to be assumed, thus, that coping with dementia will constitute an increasing individual as well as societal challenge.

Medical and scientific progress alone will not suffice to face this challenge, at least not in the nearer future. Rather, at short notice this progress might even enforce the problem: First, general improvements in healthcare might lead to a further increase in life expectancy and thus raise the prevalence of dementia because of its age-correlation. Second, biomarker and neuroimaging research into dementia is presently at the point to yield strongly reliable predictive instruments. These instruments will make it possible to anticipate later onsets of dementia in people who have only mild cognitive impairments (MCI), subjective memory impairment, or are even completely symptom-free at present. Recommended preventive measures (e.g. physical activity) can at best modify the risk. However, as long as no conclusive measures of prevention or therapy are at hand, these anticipations will further urge people to cope with the disease (e.g. in advance directives and living wills) and thus Against this background, dementia must not be the exclusive object of medical and scientific research. Rather, it should be comprehended as a phenomenon requiring a comprehensive assessment, taking into account medical and scientific aspects, but also its philosophical and ethical dimensions, psychological appearances and social implications. Not least, medical care and scientific research in dementia themselves require a thorough investigation into their conceptual and normative foundations. Under the title “Person and Dementia” an interdisciplinary research network has faced this challenge.

The consortium consisted of four subprojects, located at different academic institutions in Bonn, Düsseldorf and Jülich. The thematic focuses of the subprojects – person, personhood and personal identity, patients and autonomy, informed consent in dementia research and perception and recognition of persons suffering from dementia – were closely linked. Subproject 1 has contributed philosophical foundations and provided the other subprojects with necessary conceptual backgrounds, integrating their specific inputs and modifying and revising the conceptual framework in the light of the empirical findings. Subprojects 2–4 were interdisciplinary in nature. Subproject 2 contained an empirical component in terms of qualitative information on patients’ use of advance directives. Subproject 3 contributed quantitative assessments of the cogency of informed consent procedures. Subproject 4, finally, investigated social perceptions of dementia in specific focus groups. In this way, the consortium was designed to integrate philosophical and empirical work in a close and reflected manner and thus to maximize synergetic effects between the disciplines involved.


Thursday, 10. July 2014

  • 09.00 - 09.15
    Dieter Sturma
    Wolfgang Meier
  • 09.15 - 09.45
    Michael Fuchs
    Institute for Science and Ethics, Bonn
  • 09.45 - 11.00
    Understanding Persons with Dementia
    Jiska Cohen-Mansfield
    School of Public Health, Tel Aviv
  • 11.00 - 12.15
    Ethics, Dementia, and the Quality of Life
    Bruce Jennings
    Center for Humans and Nature, New York / Chicago
  • 12.15 - 14.15
    Lunch Break
  • 14.15 - 15.30
    Thick Description: On Person and Dementia
    Dieter Sturma
    Institute for Science and Ethics, Bonn
  • 15.30 - 16.45
    Care and Autonomy in the Context of Dementia
    Wolfgang Maier
    Clinic and Polyclinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Bonn
  • 16.45 - 17.15
    Coffee Break
  • 17.15 - 18.30
    Dementia and Quality of Life
    Andreas Kruse
    Institute of Gerontology, Heidelberg
  • 18.30

  • Friday, 11. July 2014

  • 09.30 - 10.45
    Dementia: An Ethical Framework
    Ruud Ter Meulen
    School of Social and Community Medicine, Bristol
  • 10.45 - 12.00
    Protection in the Context of Dementia
    Eugenijus Gefenas
    University of Vilnius
  • 12.00 - 13.30
    Lunch Break
  • 13.30 - 14.45
    Dementia as a Challenge for Research
    Andreas Bauer
    University Hospital, Düsseldorf
  • 14.45 - 16.00
    Research with Dementia Patients?
    Hanfried Helmchen
    Psychiatric Clinic and Polyclinic, Berlin
  • 16.00
    Closing of the Conference


  • Universität Bonn, Institut für Wissenschaft und Ehtik: Prof. Dr. Dieter Sturma
  • Universitätsklinikum Bonn, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Maier
  • Universitätsklinikum Düsseldorf, Prof. Dr. Andreas Bauer
  • Forschungszentrum Jülich, PD. Dr. Jan-Hendrik Heinrichs, Cornelia Karger

Conference languages:

German and English


Nordrhein-Westfälische Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste
North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences, Humanities and the Arts
Palmenstraße 16
40217 Düsseldorf