The standard of caring: why do we still use feeding tubes in patients with advanced dementia?


A consensus among geriatricians, ethicists, and neurologists supports a palliative approach to the care of individuals with late-stage dementia. But ten years after the publication of the first large study demonstrating the lack of efficacy of percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tubes in prolonging life for patients with advanced dementia, and seven years after the appearance of two articles in major medical journals arguing that tube feeding should no longer be the standard of care for individuals with advanced dementia, gastrostomy tubes remain commonplace in this population. One overlooked reason that many families and physicians continue to opt for artificial nutrition is that the case for feeding tubes is a moral one and not a scientific one. What may be at issue for families is how best to demonstrate caring, and caring is not readily amenable to empirical study. A better approach to family members who want feeding tubes for the demented is to acknowledge the symbolic value of nutrition for them and to seek an alternative means of satisfying the need to feed.

DOI: 10.1016/j.jamda.2008.03.011


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@article{Gillick2008TheSO, title={The standard of caring: why do we still use feeding tubes in patients with advanced dementia?}, author={Muriel R. Gillick and Angelo E. Volandes}, journal={Journal of the American Medical Directors Association}, year={2008}, volume={9 5}, pages={364-7} }