Magazine article The Spectator

Care for the Dying

Magazine article The Spectator

Care for the Dying

Article excerpt

From Dr Andrew Lawson Sir: Charles Moore seeks to perpetuate the myth of a 'death threat' for seriously ill patients when going into hospital, alluding to the supposed widespread practice of withholding fluids from sick patients (The Spectator's Notes, 30 December). As a doctor and a (lapsed) Catholic, I would state unequivocally that there are times when administering fluids to a dying patient is morally wrong and medically futile.

Moore's insinuation that the medical profession would stop giving fluids to someone when the administration of such fluids would either relieve their suffering or save their life is as insulting as it is poorly informed. Some severely demented patients in the terminal stages of their disease are unable to drink or eat and are often semiconscious, and it is debatable whether they have any sense of thirst or hunger. The British Medical Journal has published evidence to show that inserting feeding tubes through the stomach wall into such patients increased distress in some and required the use of restraints to stop the patients pulling the tubes out. …

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