Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening : an Ethical Discussion
Abstract: Introduction: Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) have a prevalence of approximately 2%, and are more common in men. AAAs are generally asymptomatic, but if ruptured and untreated, the mortality rate is close to 100%. Screening programs for AAAs are implemented in Sweden, the UK, and the US. This study describes the different views of AAA screening with a special emphasis on underlying ethical issues. Aim: To analyze the scientific background of AAA screening in order to be able to discuss its ethical basis. Methods: This was a qualitative literature study with an analysis of arguments using a hermeneutic method. Articles were obtained through a literature search and consisted of official articles, scientific articles, and debate articles. Results: A recent dissertation has questioned the value of AAA screening because of decreased AAA mortality and risk for overdiagnosis. However, most studies and official recommendations are in favor of AAA screening because disease specific mortality decreases and the screening program is considered cost-effective. Conclusion: This study shows that intellectual passion has created an unusually polarized discussion. It seems that benefit outweighs harm. Since AAA screening is the first screening program which could lead to the death of a previously asymptomatic individual, well founded informed consent is extremely important. Finally, both decisions to act and not to act have moral consequences.
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