The Vatican, Catholic health care, and the National Catholic Bioethics Center define the provision of nutrition and fluids as basic care. However, non-Catholic health policy makers define feeding and fluids to be a medical “treatment.”
For a detailed explanation of Catholic teaching about providing nutrition and hydration visit this Persistent Vegetative State page at the National Catholic Bioethics Center.
AAHPM recognizes that in some faith traditions ANH is considered basic sustenance, and for some patients and families, ANH is of symbolic importance, apart from any measurable benefits for the patient’s physical well-being. Such views should be explored, understood, and respected, in keeping with patient and family values, beliefs, and culture. Good communication is necessary to allow caregivers to learn about patient and family fears about “starvation” and other frequently expressed concerns. At the same time, communication is essential to explain the patient’s clinical condition and that the inability to eat and drink can be a natural part of dying that is generally not associated with suffering. Judicious hand feeding and, in some situations, particularly if there is uncertainty about whether a patient will benefit from ANH, a time-limited trial of ANH may be useful. When a time-limited trial of ANH is pursued, clear, measurable end points should be determined at the beginning of the trial. The care giving team should explain that, as with other medical therapies, ANH can be withdrawn if it is not achieving its desired purpose.End excerpt…click link above for full statement.