“Dementia and the Law”: Professor Deborah Denno Explains ‘Why This, Why Now?’ Ahead of Symposium


The Alzheimer’s Association reported that nearly 5.8 million Americans had Alzheimer’s dementia in 2019 and that, by mid-century, the number of people living with Alzheimer’s may more than double to 13.8 million. Amid this surge of dementia-related conditions among the aging population, Fordham Law’s Neuroscience and Law Center is inviting medical and legal professionals to discuss defining and diagnosing dementia and its implications in various legal areas—including recent advancements in cures and pharmaceutical treatment. The symposium, “Dementia and the Law,” will be held virtually from 11 a.m. to 5:25 p.m. on Tuesday, March 1. Six CLE ethics credits will be available.

Dementia-related conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, have created innumerable legal repercussions that have not yet been fully recognized or addressed, according to Deborah Denno, Arthur A. McGivney Professor of Law and founding director of the Neuroscience and Law Center.

“We’ve known about dementia for centuries, but society is now starting to look at dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s, with more urgency,” Denno said. Recently, national media attention was given to two research developments: the launch of a new blood test that can diagnose Alzheimer’s and the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the treatment drug aducanumab, which Denno called “controversial.” “There have been very few symposia on the topic of dementia and the law, and this will be the first one hosted by a law school. This symposium will also be the first to discuss this particular FDA-drug approval controversy.”

The purpose of the symposium, according to Denno, is to not only break down intricate, scientific information, but to also prepare legal professionals for potential scenarios related to dementia that they may encounter in their careers.

“There are two prongs [to this symposium],” said Denno. “First is the medical prong: some of the top people in the country will be imparting their research about an issue that potentially could affect us all personally, no matter how old you are. Second is the legal prong: no matter what area you practice as an attorney—torts, medical malpractice, contracts, personal injury law, criminal law, even corporate law and banking—challenges related to dementia are going to arise among your clients, if they haven’t already.”

What to Expect

Over 20 researchers, scholars, and attorneys of different backgrounds and expertise from across the country will be participating in the day-long event.

The first panel will provide an overview of dementia and Alzheimer’s, the populations they affect, new medical/research discoveries in the field, and the ethical issues that have arisen recently. The second panel will segue into some of the most pressing legal and sociocultural issues related to dementia and Alzheimer’s. The third panel will touch upon pragmatic issues and how dementia comes up in legal practice areas including contracts, tort law, personal injury law, civil litigation, and trusts and estates. The fourth and final panel will explore the cognitive and ethical challenges of dementia in criminal law and personal injury law, including death penalty cases.

Symposium Panel Line-Up

Welcome Remarks (11-11:10 a.m.)

  • Matthew Diller, Dean and Paul Fuller Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law
  • Deborah W. Denno, Arthur A. McGivney Professor of Law; Founding Director, Neuroscience and Law Center

Panel 1: The Medical, Scientific, and Ethical Dimensions of Dementia (11:10 a.m.-12:40 p.m.)

  • Andrew W. Albstein ’81, Managing Partner, Goldberg Weprin Finkel Goldstein LLP
  • James M. Noble, Associate Professor of Neurology at CUIMC Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain G.H. Sergievsky Center, Department of Neurology, Columbia University Irving Medical Center
  • Jed S. Rakoff, Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
  • Sharon Rosenzweig-Lipson, Vice President of Research and Development, AgeneBio, Inc.
  • Li-Huei Tsai, Director, Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
; Picower Professor of Neuroscience, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences; Co-Director, The Alana Down Syndrome Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Senior Associate Member, The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Moderated by: Victoria Phillips, Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Assistant Professor, New York University—Langone Medical Center

Panel 2: Ethics and the Brain: The Legal and Sociocultural Developments Framing Dementia (12:45-2 p.m.)

  • Dena S. Davis, Presidential Endowed Chair in Health, Lehigh University
  • Vaughn E. James, Judge Robert H. Bean Professor, Texas Tech University School of Law
  • Jason Karlawish, Professor of Medicine, Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and Neurology; Co-Director, Penn Memory Center; Director, Penn Program on Precision Medicine for the Brain, P3MB, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
  • Roger M. Sachs ’77, Former Senior Assistant General Counsel of Pfizer, Inc.

Moderated by: Erica Valencia-Graham, Research Director and Edelman Fellow, Neuroscience and Law Center, Fordham University School of Law

Panel 3: The Cognitive and Ethical Challenges of Dementia in Civil Litigation: Trusts and Estates, Contracts, Medical Malpractice, and Tort Law (2:30-3:45 p.m.)

  • Alice Jakyung Choi, Associate Attorney, Novick & Associates, PC
  • Betsy J. Grey, Jack E. Brown Chair in Law, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law; Faculty Fellow, Center for Law, Science & Innovation, Arizona State University
  • Gerard F. Joyce Jr., ’81, Managing Director, Deputy General Trust Counsel and National Head of Trusts & Estates, Fiduciary Trust Company International
  • John D. Winter ’81, Partner, Patterson Belknap

Moderated by: Sepehr Shahshahani, Associate Professor, Fordham University School of Law

Panel 4: The Cognitive and Ethical Challenges of Dementia in Criminal Law and Personal Injury Law (3:50-5:20 p.m.)

  • Eric Y. Drogin, Harvard Medical School, Affiliated Lead of Psycholegal Studies, Psychiatry, Law, & Society Program, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Michael Flomenhaft, Principal, The Flomenhaft Law Firm, PLLC
  • Joette James, Board-Certified Clinical Neuropsychologist 
  • Elizabeth Kelley, Criminal Defense Lawyer Specializing in Representing People with Mental Disabilities
  • Vicki Werneke, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Capital Habeas Unit, Office of the Federal Public Defender, Northern District of Ohio

Moderated by: Ellen Koenig, Assistant Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice, OPR; Former Senior Assistant District Attorney, Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office

Concluding Remarks (5:20-5:25 p.m.)

How to Attend

The Neuroscience and Law Center’s “Dementia and the Law” Symposium will be held virtually on Tuesday, March 1, from 11 a.m. to 5:25  p.m. Six CLE ethics credits will be available. Registration is still open.


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