feeding tubes at the end of life. The writer examines literature with regards to patients who have dementia, cancer and other end of life issues and reviews what has been concluded about using feeding tubes at this stage. There were three sources used to complete this paper.
The past few years have seen many controversial stories played out in the news regarding end of life feeding tubes and their use. Society lines up on both sides of the issue and hotly debate whether or not using a feeding tube at the end of one's life is something that should be done even if the patient is not capable of consenting. Meanwhile patients all over the nation languish between the two sides of the debate with their families trying to make the most humane and compassionate decision regarding the placement of a feeding tube into their loved one. Many studies have been conducted regarding the use of a feeding tube on a patient who is at the end of life with differing results. With a small risk in the actual placement of the tube the question centers around whether prolonging life with a feeding tube is really in the best interest of the patient.
One of the more controversial issues surrounding the use of a feeding tube is with patients who have Alzhemier's Disease. Patients with dementia often refuse food and without the ability to communicate it is difficult to determine whether they feel hunger or whether they want the life sustaining measures of a feeding tube used in their care.
According to Doctor Thomas Finucane the use of feeding tubes in patients with the disorder varies from state to state. One study examined the use of feeding tubes for this patient population and found that in Maine only 7.5% of the patients had feeding tubes inserted whereas in Missouri that figure increased to 40%. Further study indicates that the two factors most often present in the decision not to use a feeding tube are (1) the specific request by the patient or the patient's family not to use one, (2) being of white heritage (Finucane, 2001).
In addition the study notes the economic differences in the two states as a possible reason for the differences.
Another study examined the survival rate of patients who had feeding tubes placed against patients who did not. The study included more than 81,000 patients and concluded that the use of a feeding tube provided an average of survival for six additional months as opposed to those who did not have one placed whose survival rate was just over a month.
Using a tube and not using a tube each have their benefits and their problems. The study reported a higher incidence of pneumonia with patients who had feeding tubes inserted, while those who did not have tubes reported a higher incidence of malnutrition.
In increase in pneumonia for patients with feeding tubes and dementia relate to aspiration pneumonia as well as pneumonia caused by infection, however further examination indicates that patients who have difficulty swallowing their food also run the risk of contracting aspiration pneumonia (Finucane, 2001).
While there was not data at the time of this study as to whether tube feeding reduces the rate of infection in the urinary tract and other parts of the body, there was significant evidence that feeding tubes do…