Do you really want to know when you'll get Alzheimer's?
Sometimes, ignorance truly is bliss. Or at least, it's better than what's waiting around the corner.
Would you now want to know that before today ends, dreadful news is going to befall someone you care about? A neighbor who'll be hit by a car? A child who'll be injured playing sports? A parent who is about to be rushed to a hospital?
What if you knew for certain exactly when you were going to die? Would that knowledge give you comfort and help you better prepare? Or would it taint each hour that remained?
These are hypothetical questions of course. But they are sparked by a paper published this week in Nature Medicine
According to the report, it might soon be possible to predict who will get Alzheimer's disease within two to three years. Investigators identified 10 fats in the blood of people who were later diagnosed with the disease. To be sure, the test wasn't completely foolproof, as it was accurate 90% of the time. Still …
As a person who almost always enthusiastically supports the advancement of science, I have to admit I found this breakthrough a bit unnerving. On the one hand, the test might give those who appear to be candidates a chance to brace for the inevitable — and perhaps take some corrective action that might delay or even stave off the disease.
On the other hand, who wants to feel like a cow in a slaughterhouse? You know what's coming, you know it's not going to be good, and there's not much you can do about it.
So do you select Option A or Option B? For the sake of all of us, let's hope it's not long before we get some better choices.
John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.