Older people: altruism at the end of life?

Date: 25/06/2002

Elderly people at the end of their lives are increasingly being used as subjects for research into dementia, cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

An upcoming symposium at the University of Western Sydney will highlight the tensions between protecting the human rights of older people and the public interest in advancing medical knowledge by experimenting on the elderly.

"Serious ethical issues surround drug trials and research studies on elderly people who might be at the end of their lives," says Professor Carolyn Sappideen, Director of the Centre for Elder Law at the University of Western Sydney.

"Older people can pass on a great gift to future generations by taking part in a drug trial which found a cure against a life-threatening disease. On the other hand, elderly people who might be deemed 'incompetent' because they suffer from dementia need protection.

"Some people argue that experimentation on the aged is appropriate if it used for the common good in society while others want to ban any experimentation on elderly people," Professor Sappideen says.

The symposium 'Experimenting on the aged' is organised by the newly established Centre for Elder Law at the University of Western Sydney.

The Centre's key missions are to raise awareness in the community of the legal rights and responsibilities of older people in Australia as well as undertaking research for government and the aged care and retirement communities.

The speakers at this symposium will include: Professor Helen Bartlett (Australasian Centre on Ageing, University of Queensland); Professor Donald Chalmers (School of Law, University of Tasmania); Dr Peteris Darzins (National Ageing Research Institute, University of Melbourne); Dr Justin Oakley (Centre of Human Bio-ethics, Monash University); and Mr Nick O'Neill (President of the Guardianship Tribunal of New South Wales).

The symposium will be opened by Freda Whitlam AM who is Doctor of Letters from UWS.

When: Friday 12 July 2002, 8.30am - 5pm

Where: Bld PA-EGG04, Parramatta Campus, UWS

Website link: http://www.uws.edu.au/law/elderlaw/index.html

For media information contact:
Mikael Kjaerbye
Media Manager
Ph: 02 9678 7418
Mob: 0405 356 021

For information about attending the symposium contact:
Sue Field
Snr Research Assistant, Centre for Elder Law
Ph: 07 3210 2280
Email: s.field@uws.edu.au