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Op-Ed Global Health

Harvard Forum: should older politicians and judges be tested for mental decline?

Massachusetts, United States

 By Carey Goldberg / CommonHealth

The speculation spreads every time an older politician of either party blunders verbally or seems to lose the thread: Is it Alzheimer's? Early dementia? Impaired judgment?

At a recent Harvard Law School Petrie-Flom Center forum called "Dementia and Democracy" Professor Francis Shen of the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior made a point: Politicians, who have huge advantages as incumbents, and federal judges, who serve for life, tend to stay on the job well past typical retirement ages. Yet we know that some cognitive decline with age is normal, and that the risk of dementia skyrockets as we get older. So it's reasonable to conclude that some judges and politicians are no longer up to their tasks. But their cognitive failings can often be very difficult to pin down. So what is to be done? Calling all high-school debate coaches. On older politicians, Shen offers a range of options.

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17 November 2017