Polemical Note: Can it Be Unethical to Provide Nutrition and Hydration to Patients with Advanced Dementia?

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Rachel Haliburton

Abstract

Patients suffering from advanced dementia present ethicists and caregivers with a difficult issue: we do not know how they feel or how they want to be treated, and they have no way of telling us. We do not know, therefore, whether we ought to prolong their lives by providing them with nutrition and hydration, or whether we should not provide them with food and water and let them die. Since providing food and water to patients is considered to be basic care that is morally required, it is usually only the provision of nutrition and hydration by artificial means that is considered to require ethical justification. Building on what I call a virtue-based conception of autonomy, I argue that, at least for some patients suffering from advanced dementia, even providing food and liquid by hand is morally wrong.
Author Biography

Rachel Haliburton, University of Sudbury

Rachel Haliburton, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy
University of Sudbury
Sudbury, ON  P3E 2C6
Canada

E-mail: rhaliburton@usudbury.ca

References

Elliot [1999] – C. Elliot, A Philosophical Disease: Bioethics, Culture, and Identity, Routledge, New York 1999.

Hopper [2014] – T. Hopper, “Alzheimer’s Patient’s Desire To Die Denied By B.C. Court, Family Says She Is Force Fed In Nursing Home,” National Post, February 4, 2014.

Marcus, Golan, Goodman [2016] – E.-L. Marcus, O. Golan, D. Goodman, “Ethical Issues Related To End Of Life Treatment In Patients With Advanced Dementia – The Case Of Artificial Nutrition and Hydration,” Diametros (50) 2016, p. 141–160.

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How to Cite
HALIBURTON, R. Polemical Note: Can it Be Unethical to Provide Nutrition and Hydration to Patients with Advanced Dementia?. Diametros, n. 50, p. 152-160, 20 dez. 2016.
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