Must Patients Always Be Given Food and Water?
An eighty-four-year-old non-ambulatory nursing home patient was confined to semi-fetal condition with “severe organic brain syndrome.” She had necrotic gangrenous leg ulcers and no bowel control. The patient was not in a vegetative state; her life expectancy could not be predicted but it was thought to be “some months.” Nutrition was provided through a nasogastric tube.
The patient’s nephew, as her only relative, had been named guardian earlier, and requested removal of the nasogastric tube. The physician declined. The guardian sought a court order authorizing the withdrawal of tube.