Breaking News
September 23, 2018 - HIV and a tale of a few cities
September 23, 2018 - NIH launches clinical trial to test infusions of combination antibodies in people with HIV
September 23, 2018 - Researchers develop new system to detect consumption of synthetic cannabinoids
September 23, 2018 - Vax-Hub to influenze radical change in development and manufacturing of vaccines
September 23, 2018 - People who have slept lesser than seven hours have higher risks of car crashes
September 23, 2018 - an ancient art may work best to prevent falls in old age
September 23, 2018 - Consumption of foods with lower nutritional quality related to increased cancer risk
September 23, 2018 - Patient Health Information Often Shared Electronically
September 23, 2018 - Can machine learning bring more humanity to health care?
September 23, 2018 - Body organs undergo structural changes in response to diet
September 23, 2018 - Genetic polymorphisms linked with muscle injury and stiffness
September 23, 2018 - As states try to rein in drug spending, feds slap down one bold Medicaid move
September 22, 2018 - Why Eczema Is Tougher to Treat for Black Patients
September 22, 2018 - Team reveals that human genome could contain up to 20 percent fewer genes
September 22, 2018 - USC research uncovers previously unknown genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease
September 22, 2018 - Novel method achieves accurate and precise temperature estimation in fat-containing tissues
September 22, 2018 - BSI accredits Oxehealth’s vital signs measurement software as Class IIa medical device
September 22, 2018 - Evolution of psychiatric disorders and human personality traits
September 22, 2018 - Obesity in early puberty doubles asthma risk for boy’s future offspring
September 22, 2018 - World’s most advanced real-time patient monitoring platform receives key US patent
September 22, 2018 - Study explores connection between sexuality and cognitive status in older adults
September 22, 2018 - LSTM partners with TB Alliance to develop novel TB drug regimens
September 22, 2018 - Annual wellness visits improve delivery of preventive services in elderly population
September 22, 2018 - CHMP provides positive opinion to Cabometyx for previously-treated patients with hepatocellular carcinoma
September 22, 2018 - Hispanic communities with high proportions of Hispanics face more cardiovascular-related death
September 22, 2018 - Vici syndrome – Genetics Home Reference
September 22, 2018 - Single-dose drug can shorten flu symptoms by about a day, studies suggest
September 22, 2018 - AMSBIO launches circulating tumor DNA Reference Standards
September 22, 2018 - Sandalwood mimicking odorant could stimulate hair growth in humans
September 22, 2018 - Overlooked immune cells could play a key role in cancer immunotherapy, claims new study
September 22, 2018 - Study reveals prevalence of diagnosed type 1 and type 2 diabetes among American adults
September 22, 2018 - Researchers develop fast detection strategy to know type of virus acquired by patients
September 22, 2018 - Global Prevalence of Insufficient Activity 27.5 Percent
September 22, 2018 - Strategies to protect bone health in hematologic stem cell transplant recipients
September 22, 2018 - Brigham Genomic Medicine program unravels 30 medical mysteries
September 22, 2018 - New system harnesses power of bubbles to destroy dangerous biofilms
September 22, 2018 - Inflammation plays crucial role in preventing heart attacks and strokes, study reveals
September 22, 2018 - Calorie dense, nutrient deficient meals common across the world
September 22, 2018 - Researchers develop technology to study behavior of implants without animal testing
September 22, 2018 - First gut bacteria in newborns may have lasting effect on ability to ward off chronic diseases
September 22, 2018 - Detection of BFD virus in parrots in 8 new countries raises concerns for threatened species
September 22, 2018 - Insulin treatment shows great potential against chronic bowel inflammation
September 22, 2018 - ‘Liking Gap’ Might Stand in Way of New Friendships
September 22, 2018 - Simple factors that can avoid harmful side effects in type 2 diabetes
September 22, 2018 - ALSAM Foundation invests additional $2 million for drug discovery and development projects
September 22, 2018 - Study findings may advance discussion of how to effectively curb human-wildlife conflict
September 22, 2018 - Dopamine neurons may involve in conditions ranging from Parkinson’s disease to schizophrenia
September 22, 2018 - Protein C and Protein S Tests: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
September 22, 2018 - Obesity and diabetes—two reasons why we should be worried about the plastics that surround us
September 22, 2018 - Concern over fussy eating prompts parents to use non-responsive feeding practices
September 22, 2018 - Novel mathematical approach uncovers existence of unsuspected biological cycles
September 22, 2018 - Cancer Research UK invests £14 million to transform London into cancer biotherapeutics hub
September 22, 2018 - Scientists predict how well the body will fight lung cancer by analyzing immune cell shapes
September 22, 2018 - New outbreak of rare eye disease identified in contact lens wearers
September 22, 2018 - Iterum Initiates SURE 2 and SURE 3 Phase 3 Clinical Trials of IV and Oral Sulopenem in Complicated Urinary Tract and Complicated Intra-abdominal Infections
September 22, 2018 - Research finds divide in dental health accessibility between city and regional areas
September 22, 2018 - Premature babies show better brain development when fed breast milk, finds study
September 22, 2018 - Novel system uses AI to detect abnormalities in fetal hearts
September 22, 2018 - UNC scientists reveal new approach to prevent obesity and diabetes
September 22, 2018 - CWRU receives NIH grant to learn how non-coding genes contribute to spread of colorectal cancer
September 22, 2018 - Scientists better understand influenza virus and how it spreads
September 22, 2018 - Scientists to focus on length of time when a person is alive and healthy
September 22, 2018 - Study shows positive financial impacts of Medicaid expansion for low-income Michigan residents
September 22, 2018 - Innovative approach for developing vaccine against most prevalent human malaria parasite
September 22, 2018 - Study finds excess emissions from diesel cars produced by major auto manufacturers in Europe
September 22, 2018 - Decision aids for parents of children with minor head injuries help communicate with physicians
September 22, 2018 - Research scientist at Kessler Foundation receives $10,000 grant to study aphasia after stroke
September 22, 2018 - New findings on characteristics of Burning Mouth Syndrome
September 22, 2018 - Study sheds light on molecular mechanisms underlying progression of prion diseases
September 22, 2018 - Innovation Fund Denmark supports research project that aims to fight Clostridium difficile diarrhea
September 22, 2018 - Survey estimates caregiving costs for family members
September 22, 2018 - Inhibiting NF-kB improves heart function in a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy
September 22, 2018 - Introducing new EMR system may affect several aspects of clinic workflow
September 22, 2018 - Study finds why some human genes are more popular with biomedical researchers
September 22, 2018 - Finding epigenetic signature appears to predict inflammation risk in serious type of IBD
September 22, 2018 - Researchers develop light-based technique to measure very weak magnetic fields
September 22, 2018 - UAB researchers study dysfunction of the immune system associated with NSAID carprofen
September 22, 2018 - QIAGEN and DiaSorin launch automated, CE-marked workflow for high-throughput TB screening
September 22, 2018 - EFS checklist provides user-friendly tool for evaluating feeding skills in preterm infants
September 22, 2018 - Family history in blacks, Latinos associated with higher risk of AFib
‘Aggressive’ new advance directive would let dementia patients refuse food

‘Aggressive’ new advance directive would let dementia patients refuse food

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

Treading into ethically and legally uncertain territory, a New York end-of-life agency has approved a new document that lets people stipulate in advance that they don’t want food or water if they develop severe dementia.

The directive, finalized this month by the board for End Of Life Choices New York, aims to provide patients a way to hasten death in late-stage dementia, if they choose.

Dementia is a terminal illness, but even in the seven U.S. jurisdictions that allow medical aid-in-dying, it’s not a condition covered by the laws. Increasingly, patients are seeking other options, said Dr. Timothy Quill, a palliative care expert at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and longtime advocate of the practice.

“Developing incapacitating dementia is certainly my and a lot of people’s worst nightmare,” he said. “This is an aggressive document. It’s a way of addressing a real problem, which is the prospect of advanced dementia.”

The document offers two options: one that requests “comfort feeding” — providing oral food and water if a patient appears to enjoy or allows it during the final stages of the disease — and one that would halt all assisted eating and drinking, even if a patient seems willing to accept it.

Supporters say it’s the strongest effort to date to allow people who want to avoid the ravages of advanced dementia to make their final wishes known — while they still have the ability to do so.

“They do not want their dying prolonged,” said Judith Schwarz, who drafted the document as clinical director for the advocacy group. “This is an informed and thoughtful choice that needs a great deal of reflection and discussion.”

But critics say it’s a disturbing effort to allow withdrawal of basic sustenance from the most vulnerable in society.

“I think oral feeding is basic care,” said Richard Doerflinger, an associate scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute, which opposes abortion and euthanasia. “It’s what they want here and now that matters. If they start taking food, you give them food.”

Advance directives are legally recognized documents that specify care if a person is incapacitated. They can confirm that a patient doesn’t want to be resuscitated or kept on life support, such as a ventilator or feeding tube, if they have a terminal condition from which they’re not likely to recover.

However, the documents typically say nothing about withdrawing hand-feeding of food or fluids.

The New York directive, in contrast, offers option A, which allows refusal of all oral assisted feeding. Option B permits comfort-focused feeding.

Both options would be invoked only when a patient is diagnosed with moderate or severe dementia, defined as Stages 6 or 7 of a widely used test known as the Functional Assessment Staging Tool (FAST). At those stages, patients would be unable to feed themselves or make health care decisions.

The new form goes further than a similar dementia directive introduced last year by another group that supports aid-in-dying, End of Life Washington. That document says that a person with dementia who accepts food or drink should receive oral nourishment until he or she is unwilling or unable to do so.

The New York document says, “My instructions are that I do NOT want to be fed by hand even if I appear to cooperate in being fed by opening my mouth.”

Whether the new directive will be honored in New York — or anywhere else — is unclear. Legal scholars and ethicists say directives withdrawing oral assisted feeding are prohibited in several states. Many care facilities are unlikely to cooperate, said Thaddeus Pope, director of the Health Law Institute at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., and an expert on end-of-life law. Doctors have a duty to honor patient wishes, but they can refuse if they have medical or moral qualms.

“Even solidly legal advance directives do not and cannot ENSURE that wishes are respected,” Pope said in an email. “They can only ‘help assure’ that.”

Directors at End of Life Choices New York consider the document “legally sturdy,” Schwarz said, adding: “Of course it’s going to end up in court.”

Whether assisted feeding can be withdrawn was at the center of recent high-profile cases in which patients with dementia were spoon-fed against their documented wishes because they continued to open their mouths. In a case in Canada, a court ruled that such feeding is basic care that can’t be withdrawn.

People who fill out the directives may be more likely to have them honored if they remain at home, Schwarz said. She stressed that patients should make their wishes known far in advance and choose health care agents who will be strong advocates. Legal experts say the documents should be updated regularly.

Doerflinger, however, said creating the directive and making it available misses a crucial point: People who don’t have dementia now can’t know how they’ll feel later, yet they’re deciding in advance to forgo nourishment.

“The question is: Do we, the able-bodied, have a right to discriminate against the disabled people we will later become?” Doerflinger said.

Already, though, Schwarz has heard from people determined to put the new directive in place.

Janet Dwyer, 59, of New York, said her family was horrified by her father’s lingering death after a heart attack four years ago and mindful of a family history of dementia. When Dwyer learned there was a directive to address terminal illness and dementia, she signed it. So did her husband, John Harney, also 59.

“Judith informed me of the Option A or Option B scenarios,” said Dwyer, who opted for A. “I said, ‘Well, that is just perfect.”

JoNel Aleccia: [email protected], @JoNel_Aleccia


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles