Dehydration Among Terminally Ill Patients: An Integrated Ethical and Practical Approach for Caregivers
De Ridder, Dolf
Nursing Ethics. 1996 Dec; 3(4): 305-316.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the possibilities and limitations of an ethical and practical approach to terminal dehydration. We have argued that dehydration among terminally ill patients offers an important key to a better understanding of the dying process, and that the caregivers' reactions can lead to a deepening of holistic palliative care. This article makes clear that the moral question of terminal dehydration can only be treated by an interdisciplinary approach. Therefore, before studying the question of the most humane course possible, we must first understand the meaning of dehydration and its repercussions for the dying patient. Inspired by an attitude of respect for a good dying process, we have suggested that it is possible to put forward as a general guideline that medical therapy should be progressively reduced when it has been determined that a patient has reached the terminal stage, or is in an irreversible deteriorating process. We describe the critical somatic, social, psychological, moral and spiritual points, which make up an ethical approach to terminal dehydration (TD). In the total care of the irreversibly terminally ill patient, tolerating TD can be an expression of an authentic and caring involvement in the dying patient's welfare.
Artificial Feeding; Attitudes; Beneficence; Caregivers; Caring; Communication; Family Members; Life; Nurses; Palliative Care; Patient Care; Patient Care Team; Patients; Physicians; Quality of Life; Risks and Benefits; Suffering; Terminal Care; Terminally Ill; Treatment Refusal; Value of Life; Withholding Treatment;
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