The use of enteral feeding tubes or cannulas to provide nutrients and prevent a patient becoming dehydrated. Such interventions may be considered to be either active treatment or merely supportive, leading to debate about withdrawal from insentient patients who have no prospect of meaningful recovery. Commonly, when other intensive treatments are judged futile, artificial nutrition and hydration are considered extraordinary means of prolonging life. It is permissible to withdraw such treatment when it is no longer in the patient’s interests and when the primary intention is not to kill the patient, although death is foreseen (see doctrine of double effect). In cases of patients in a persistent vegetative state, the matter must be referred to the courts following the case of Tony Bland. Where food and water are withdrawn it is still considered important to moisten the patient’s lips and to keep him or her comfortable until death.
Subjects: Medicine and Health.