Breaking News
March 23, 2019 - Lung cancer survivor recounts her lifetime struggles
March 23, 2019 - Radial and femoral approach for PCI achieve similar results in terms of survival
March 23, 2019 - Study sheds light on the optimal timing of coronary angiography in NSTEMI patients
March 23, 2019 - Excess hormones could cause a condition that can lead to blindness in women, study finds
March 23, 2019 - Dramatic shifts in first-time opioid prescriptions bring hope, concern
March 23, 2019 - Antidepressant drugs may not work when neurons are out of shape
March 23, 2019 - TTUHSC El Paso to establish endowed chair in neurology through a major grant
March 23, 2019 - New device approved by FDA for treating patients with moderate-to-severe heart failure
March 23, 2019 - People with peripheral artery disease have lower Omega-3 Index, shows research
March 23, 2019 - Trigger warnings have minimal impact on how people respond to content, shows research
March 23, 2019 - Gilead Announces Data From Two Studies Supporting Further Development of GS-6207, a Novel, Investigational HIV-1 Capsid Inhibitor as a Component of Future Long-Acting HIV Therapies
March 23, 2019 - Selfish genetic elements amplify inflammation and age-related diseases
March 23, 2019 - Study provides new understanding of how the brain recovers from damage caused by stroke
March 23, 2019 - CRISPR/Cas libraries could revolutionize drug discovery
March 23, 2019 - Allergic reaction during pregnancy may alter sexual-development in offspring’s brain
March 23, 2019 - Seeing through a robot’s eyes helps those with profound motor impairments
March 23, 2019 - Recent research shows that ease of breastfeeding after C-section differs culturally
March 23, 2019 - Newly discovered parameters offer more control over efficient release of drugs
March 23, 2019 - ‘De-tabooing’ of abortion- Women would like more support from health care community
March 23, 2019 - Anti-TB drugs can increase susceptibility to Mtb reinfection
March 23, 2019 - New survey indicates need of attention to neglected tropical diseases
March 23, 2019 - Innovative in vitro method to develop easy-to-swallow medicine for children and older people
March 23, 2019 - Sugary drinks could raise risk of early deaths finds study
March 23, 2019 - Lian wins ENGINE grant for stem-cell-based therapy to treat Type 1 diabetes
March 23, 2019 - Overall, Physicians Are Happy and Enjoy Their Lives
March 23, 2019 - Researchers discover how blood vessels protect the brain during inflammation
March 23, 2019 - CDC study shows modest improvement in optimal hospital breastfeeding policy
March 23, 2019 - Family-based prevention program to reduce alcohol use among older teens
March 23, 2019 - Remote monitoring of implanted defibrillators in heart failure patients prevents hospitalizations
March 23, 2019 - Appropriate doffing of personal protective equipment may reduce healthcare worker contamination
March 23, 2019 - Window screens can suppress mosquito populations, reduce malaria in Tanzania
March 23, 2019 - Researchers discover new biomarker for postoperative liver dysfunction
March 23, 2019 - Pregnancy history may be linked to cognitive function in older women, finds study
March 23, 2019 - Study shows ticagrelor is equally safe and effective as clopidogrel after heart attack
March 23, 2019 - FDA Approves First Drug for Postpartum Depression, Zulresso (brexanolone)
March 23, 2019 - New guidelines outline new treatment management for psoriasis
March 23, 2019 - Thermally abused cooking oil may promote progression of breast cancer
March 23, 2019 - High-fructose corn syrup fuels growth of colon tumors in mice
March 23, 2019 - Partnership aims at establishing best practices to promote diversity in clinical trials
March 23, 2019 - New study examines presence of microbes in tap water from residences, office buildings
March 23, 2019 - Early life trauma may affect brain structure, contribute to major depressive disorder
March 23, 2019 - NIH starts clinical trial of drug to treat cravings associated with opioid use disorder
March 23, 2019 - Cervix bacteria, immune factors could be a warning signal of premature birth, reports new research
March 23, 2019 - Worst-ever emergency care performance figures underscore the need to focus on staffing
March 23, 2019 - The Current issue of “The view from here” is concerned with Cancer
March 23, 2019 - Mouse model validates how ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria affect acne
March 23, 2019 - Individual amygdala neurons respond to touch, imagery and sounds
March 23, 2019 - Combination of two topical creams can prevent cancer
March 23, 2019 - Study suggests depression screening when assessing African-Americans for schizophrenia
March 23, 2019 - New electronic support system for choosing drug treatment based on patient’s genotype
March 23, 2019 - First-of-its-kind study provides pregnancy statistics of imprisoned U.S. women
March 23, 2019 - Marinus Pharmaceuticals Initiates Phase 3 Study in Children with PCDH19-Related Epilepsy
March 23, 2019 - Laparoscopy: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
March 23, 2019 - Shellfish allergies: can they be treated?
March 23, 2019 - Toilet seat heart monitoring system
March 23, 2019 - Researchers identify way to improve common treatment for PTSD
March 23, 2019 - High potency cannabis use linked to psychosis finds study
March 23, 2019 - Evoke Pharma Submits Response to FDA Review Letter for Gimoti NDA
March 23, 2019 - Tracking HIV’s ever-evolving genome in effort to prioritize public health resources
March 23, 2019 - Scientists grow most sophisticated brain organoid to date
March 23, 2019 - ADHD drug raising risk of psychosis
March 22, 2019 - FDA approves brexanolone, first drug developed to treat postpartum depression
March 22, 2019 - Gruesome cat and dog experiments by the USDA exposed
March 22, 2019 - Ball pits used in children’s physical therapy may contribute to germ transmission
March 22, 2019 - Long-term use of inexpensive weight-loss drug may be safe and effective
March 22, 2019 - FDA Approves Sunosi (solriamfetol) for Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Associated with Narcolepsy or Obstructive Sleep Apnea
March 22, 2019 - Anti-Müllerian Hormone Test: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information
March 22, 2019 - Finding the right exercise, diet aids for HIV patients
March 22, 2019 - Health Plans For State Employees Use Medicare’s Hammer On Hospital Bills
March 22, 2019 - Researchers develop new tool for imaging large groups of neurons in living animals
March 22, 2019 - Certain bacteria and immune factors in vagina may cause or protect against preterm birth
March 22, 2019 - Research identifies guidelines for prioritizing hepatitis C treatment in U.S. prisons
March 22, 2019 - Novel breath test could pave new way to non-invasively measure gut health
March 22, 2019 - Pharmaceutical and personal care products may result in new contaminants in waterways
March 22, 2019 - New model could revolutionize the way researchers investigate spread of pathogens
March 22, 2019 - MSU professor receives NSF CAREER grant for biosensor diagnostics
March 22, 2019 - High-fat, high-sugar diet in mouse mothers causes problems in the hearts of offspring
March 22, 2019 - ACC: Catheter Ablation Does Not Cut Mortality, Stroke in A-Fib
March 22, 2019 - Wiedemann-Rautenstrauch syndrome – Genetics Home Reference
March 22, 2019 - Health insurance is not assurance of healthcare
‘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