Deep brain stimulation and the ethics of protection and caring for the patient with Parkinson's dementia

Mov Disord. 2008 Oct 30;23(14):1973-6. doi: 10.1002/mds.22244.


Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an effective neurosurgical treatment for patients with advanced Parkinson's disease (PD) suffering from motor complications that are refractory to further medication management. DBS requires an invasive procedure of implanting brain electrodes while awake, followed by implantation of neurostimulators under general anesthesia. The neurostimulator requires battery monitoring and replacement approximately every 3 to 5 years. These two elements of the technology provide numerous decision points about continuing therapies that can involve ethical choices. Although motor function can be improved with subthalamic nucleus (STN) DBS, the long-term risks of living with implanted hardware should be carefully evaluated for patients with diminishing cognitive capacity. We describe two cases where ethical dilemmas occurred postoperatively as a result of cognitive decline and describe salient ethical dimensions that illustrate the need for a proactive postoperative plan for supervision as a prerequisite for surgery to include neuropsychological testing to predict the likelihood of net benefit to the patient and family beyond just motor improvement.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / ethics*
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / methods*
  • Dementia / complications
  • Dementia / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parkinson Disease / complications
  • Parkinson Disease / therapy*