Don’t starve Grandma
Letter to the Editor | Monday, March 2, 2009
I disagree with Mr. Hagan’s interpretation of the 2007 CDF statement on artificial nutrition and hydration. He states in his Feb. 16 article titled “Health care purpose” that the denial of nutrition and hydration is permissible if a patient has reached the terminal stage of an illness where treatment is ineffective. “Treatment” in these cases refers to extraordinary care (such as chemotherapy), which any patient may refuse, terminal or otherwise. The CDF document asserts that people in persistent vegetative states must receive nutrition and hydration (ordinary care) precisely because they are people with fundamental human dignity. Unless the terminally ill lack fundamental human dignity (they don’t), this implies that they, too, must receive nutrition and hydration, and denial thereof is euthanasia. The only exception stated or implied in this document is in the case where this care does not “accomplish its proper finality,” or in other words, the body cannot absorb the nourishment. In this case (as Professor Rice notes), the removal of artificial nourishment is not the cause of death. This is a stark contrast to the starvation of a patient who has received a terminal diagnosis and would continue to live for months or years with nutrition and hydration.