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LCQ9: Dementia

     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Kwok-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (February 23):


     Quite a number of social workers, doctors as well as elderly groups, medical specialist groups and groups for persons with disabilities have complained to me that the Government, without consulting the public and professional groups, has casually adopted the result of a renaming competition organised by a charitable organisation at the end of last year, and arbitrarily and unprofessionally changed the Chinese rendition of dementia to "腦退化症".  Some social workers and doctors have categorically pointed out that from the medical point of view, symptoms of dementia are indeed not the same as those of "腦退化症", and that the Chinese rendition "老年痴呆症", instead of "腦退化症", is still being used as the official name of dementia in medical journals, worldwide medical organisations, legal terminologies and documents of public hospitals at present.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) when the Government changed the official Chinese rendition of dementia to "腦退化症";

(b) whether the Government had consulted the public and professional groups when making such a change; if it had, when the consultation was conducted, and according to the consultation report, of the respective groups which expressed support for and those which opposed;

(c) according to the assessment by the Government, whether the symptoms of "腦退化症" are exactly the same as those of dementia from a medical point of view; if not, why the official Chinese rendition of dementia was changed to"腦退化症"; if so, whether it has disproved the professional views of elderly groups and medical specialist groups;

(d) when changing the official Chinese rendition of dementia to "腦退化症", whether the Government had requested the Legislative Council to amend the legal terminology in the relevant ordinances simultaneously and asked public hospitals and government departments, such as the Social Welfare Department, etc. to amend the relevant documents; if it had, when such requests were made; if not, of the reasons for that; and

(e) whether the change is recognised by worldwide medical organisations, so as to prevent Hong Kong's medical sector and the Government from being ridiculed as unprofessional; if so, when and from which organisations such recognition was obtained; if not, of the reasons for that?



(a) to (e) "Dementia" is a syndrome of brain disease. It is a medical term used to describe the co-existence of various specific symptoms. The symptoms of dementia include a decline in memory and cognitive functions, and patients may display symptoms such as disruptive behaviour, delusions or hallucinations, etc. The personality and behaviors of patients may also change. Dementia may have different causes and there are three main categories of dementia:

(1) Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia. The causes of AD are not known yet and the degeneration is progressive;

(2) Vascular dementia is triggered by strokes or cerebro-vascular problems that cause damage to the brain. Degeneration can come on suddenly and fast; and

(3) Other kinds of dementia may be caused by depression, inadequate nutrition, hypothyroidism and drug poisoning. These patients can alleviate their conditions through medications. In some circumstances, dementia may be caused by other disorders such as Parkinson's disease and AIDS, etc.

     The Hospital Authority (HA) and the Department of Health (DH) have all along dedicated their efforts to promoting awareness of dementia among the public so as to eliminate misunderstanding and discrimination in the community and encourage patients to seek early medical treatment.

     At present, some diseases may have other names in addition to their official medical terms. "腦退化症" is an award-winning entry in a "dementia" renaming competition organised by a non-government organisation.  It was the aim of the organiser that through public participation, a Chinese term generally acceptable to the public would be selected for daily communication in an effort to promote public acceptance and support for patients with dementia, and assist the patients and their family members in facing the condition with an active attitude. We understand and respect the expectations of the patients and their family members for elimination of discrimination. We also recognise that the activity is conducive to enhancing public understanding and support for patients with dementia.

     Since degeneration of the brain is not the sole cause of dementia and cannot fully reflect the symptoms of dementia, HA and DH have no plan to adopt "腦退化症" as the official medical term of dementia. On the basis of a medical consensus and having regard to the names adopted by international medical organisations, experts from HA and DH will consider whether it is necessary to adopt a name which can reflect the symptoms of the condition and at the same time facilitate communication and exchanges among various sectors, including members of the public, the healthcare sector and international organisations, etc.

Ends/Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Issued at HKT 13:48


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