Disabling stroke in persons already with a disability: Ethical dimensions and directives

Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide and a leading cause of adult disability worldwide. More than a third of individuals presenting with strokes are estimated to have a preexisting disability. Despite unprecedented advances in stroke research and clinical practice over the past decade, approaches to acute stroke care for persons with preexisting disability have received scant attention. Current standards of research and clinical practice are influenced by an underexplored range of biases that may hinder acute stroke care for persons with disability. These trends may exacerbate unequal health outcomes by rendering novel stroke therapies inaccessible to many persons with disabilities. Here, we explore the underpinnings and implications of biases involving persons with disability in stroke research and practice. Recent insights from bioethics, disability rights, and health law are explained and critically evaluated in the context of prevailing research and clinical practices. Allowing disability to drive decisions to withhold acute stroke interventions may perpetuate disparate health outcomes and undermine ethically resilient stroke care. Advocacy for inclusion of persons with disability in future stroke trials can improve equity in stroke care delivery.

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