Common, Difficult Questions about Providing Nutrition at End of Life: Bedside Application of Catholic Moral Teaching


There is much confusion surrounding how to interpret provision of artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) at the bedside in complicated clinical circumstances. The specific scenario that prompted these questions was a request by a patient and her family to remove a feeding tube that had become, in the patient’s eyes and opinion, disproportionately burdensome in her particular set of clinical circumstances. This clinically relevant article can be viewed as a bedside interpretation of Catholic bioethical teachings on provision of ANH to the dying patient. Please note that this article does not address specific ethical issues that pertain to persistent vegetative state, which is beyond the scope of this particular discussion.

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The Linacre Quarterly is the oldest continuously published bioethics journal in the United States. As the official journal of the Catholic Medical Association, it explores issues at the interface of medicine and religion, focusing on bioethics and also exploring medical topics which have an ethical dimension. Drawing from the rich tradition of Catholic bioethics, the journal brings a holistic approach to the patient, integrating findings from clinical medicine with psychology, sociology, and religion in order to elucidate bioethical issues and their impact on patients, health-care workers, and medical systems in the setting of society and the extant culture. This journal is a member of COPE.

Michael Vacca is the Director of Ministry Bioethics and Membership Experience for Christ Medicus Foundation CURO