A reader asks about artificially feeding dying people

A reader asks about artificially feeding dying people November 1, 2016

She writes:

Hi, Mark–I didn’t know who to ask about this, but I think you will either have a good answer or will be able to direct me to someone who will have a good answer.  It is this:   When one creates one’s Will, he is asked if, at the extremities of life, that is, when one is facing death fairly soon, one wants hydration and food or not.  I understand that the Church’s teaching is  that one should be given water and nourishment as long as the body absorbs them.  My question is, Why is tube feeding at the end of life not considered an artificial prolonging of life?  I have never heard a satisfying explanation of this, and I want very much to hear one.

I’m not really clear on the niceties of moral theology here.  I *suspect* that one can be intubated if one wants but that the Church does not demand that doctor’s do this against the patient’s will.  The main thing, I think is that food and water be made available in whatever form the patient can receive if they choose.  If they just don’t want the fuss of tubes and don’t want food or water delivered traditional means than they need not be forced.  Typically an IV will suffice for water needs.  Its food that the patient can take or leave however they like.  We simply can’t *deny* them that if they want it, but we can’t force it on them if they don’t.

But that’s just my best guess.  Talk to a real ethicist.  If I’m wrong, listen to them, not me.

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