Ethics of Nutrition and Hydration in the Critically Ill Patient

4 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2012

See all articles by Brian P. Mangum

Brian P. Mangum

Fiji National University (FNU); College of Micronesia - Federated States of Micronesia; Xavier University - School of Medicine

William Buckley

Departmento di Salud Publico di Aruba

Date Written: March 14, 2012

Abstract

The technological capacity to prolong life in critically ill patients through enteric, or artificial nutrition, does not result in an ethical right to do so by healthcare providers. Currently, the ethical debate over the removal of enteric support in patients for whom there is little likelihood of improvement is mediated by a lack of biomedical research demonstrating the benefits versus drawbacks of such support. Furthermore, the decision to remove support as a way of preventing suffering, as opposed to instituting death, is clouded by the concept of how to define suffering given the wide range of cultural, religious, biomedical and philosophical definitions, and what level of suffering must a patient reach before termination of support. Family wishes, the wishes of the patient, providers and the legal system all play a role in the decision to remove support. There is a need for collaboration between ethicists and healthcare providers to understand the benefits and drawbacks of enteric nutrition, and when these factors outweigh suffering, as well as understanding of how to interpret the cultural mediators of suffering that each individual patient and their support system bring to the discussion of the ethics of nutrition and hydration in the critically ill patient.

Keywords: Nutrition, Hydration, Terminally ill, End-of-life care, Decision making

Suggested Citation

Mangum, Brian P. and Buckley, William, Ethics of Nutrition and Hydration in the Critically Ill Patient (March 14, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2021845 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2021845

Brian P. Mangum (Contact Author)

Fiji National University (FNU) ( email )

P.O.Box 7222
Fiji

College of Micronesia - Federated States of Micronesia ( email )

PO Box 159
Kolonia, Pohnpei, 96941
Micronesia

Xavier University - School of Medicine ( email )

NY
United States

William Buckley

Departmento di Salud Publico di Aruba ( email )

Aruba

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