17 Diagnosing dementia: cantonal policies and ethical issues


Dementia diagnosis raises a range of political and normative questions. Its implementation involves both the health and social sectors and entails various ethical dilemmas. This study aims to identify how the Swiss cantons handle dementia diagnosis and related ethical issues.

Portrait / project description (ongoing research project)

The first stage consists in a comparative analysis of the diagnostic practices related to dementia in all 26 cantons, with a particular attention to early diagnosis. The analysis relies on cantonal data, on a survey of healthcare professionals and on phone interviews with key stakeholders of dementia policy. The second stage involves an in-depth analysis of the conception and implementation of dementia diagnosis in three to four cantons, chosen so as to represent the variety of cantonal practices. The third stage entails focus group discussions with professionals, patients and families on the ethical dilemmas associated with early dementia diagnosis.


The number of dementia patients will increase significantly in the coming years in Switzerland. To prepare the healthcare system for this challenge, the National Dementia Strategy 2014-2017 was developed, which emphasises the need for early diagnosis and for appropriate support for people with dementia and their families. The cantons, which are in charge of the implementation of this strategy, have adopted different approaches, particularly in how early diagnosis is conceived of and organised.


This study aims to provide an exhaustive and systematic panorama of the implementation of dementia diagnosis in the Swiss cantons, with an emphasis on early diagnosis. It also seeks to identify how different cantonal approaches, located at the intersection of the healthcare and the social care system, tackle the ethical issues associated with diagnostic practices. Best practice recommendations will also be formulated.

Relevance / Application

This research will produce recommendations for cantonal decision-makers regarding the implementation of early dementia diagnosis at the cantonal level. Moreover, it will improve our understanding of the links between policy measures and related ethical issues.

Original title

Dementia Diagnostic between Cure and Care Policies Practices and ethical issues in the Swiss cantons

Project leaders


  • Prof. Barbara Lucas, Haute école de travail social, Haute Ecole Spécialisée de Suisse occidentale


  • Prof. Samia Hurst, Institut Ethique Histoire Humanités (iEH2), Faculté de Médecine, Université de Genève

Project partners:

  • Prof. Lea Sgier, Department of Political Science Central, European University
  • Dr. Olivier Giraud, LISE CNAM CNRS, Paris



Further information on this content


Prof. Dr. Barbara Lucas Haute école de travail social HES-SO Genève 28, rue Prévost-Martin
Case postale 80
1211 Genève 4 +41 22 388 94 80

On this Subject