Withholding or Withdrawing Nutrition or Hydration
McCarrick, Pat Milmoe
(Scope Note 7, first published in November 1986, was last revised in 1988. Material published in the past few years has been added to this update.) Current medical technologies allow more people than ever before to survive for long periods of time with extremely limited physical and mental capacities. For those patients who are irreversibly comatose or who are imminently going to die or who are in a persistent vegetative state (PVS), the question of withholding or withdrawing the nutrition and fluids that they have been receiving through feeding tubes, has become an ethical dilemma for those responsible for care. Families, physicians, nurses and other health personnel question what constitutes appropriate medical care, and whether such treatments any benefits to the patient or whether prolonged intrusive procedures become burdensome to the dying, deeply comatose, or PVS patient.
Bioethics Research Library, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University