Tag: Artificial Nutrition & Hydration

Facing a Hard Choice: Saying Yes or No to Artificial Nutrition and Hydration (ANH)

It can be difficult to have a conversation with your family about whether or not an elderly family member should be put on artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) when he or she is nearing the end of life. However, it’s usually much easier to make that decision while the elderly person can still give informed consent and include their wishes in an advanced health directive. Providers need to be aware of the goals of all concerned and families must be informed as to whether ANH can realistically achieve these goals. Have the Conversation A few months before my 97-year-old father died, he and I sat down with a kind doctor who explained the risks and benefits of ANH. Dad was able to state unequivocally that he did not want ANH or any other extreme measures, including hospitalization, if he developed a life-threatening illness. We made contact with a hospice service that sprang into action immediately when he developed aspirational pneumonia. Within three days, he died peacefully in his own bed. For some families the choice is not so easy. Each situation is different. Some people consider it an ethical matter and feel they must prolong life as long as possible. Others worry that their loved one will suffer needlessly without nourishment or fluids. Your spiritual advisor and doctor can help you make the decision that is right for the patient and family, including informing you of the risks and benefits of ANH and alternative treatments and interventions. Possible Side-Effects of ANH When a person has a curable illness and can’t swallow, ANH can help him or her recover. For a patient who has a life-threatening illness and is dying, ANH may not be beneficial. These patients may live a little longer with ANH, but not always. In either case, there

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