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Aggressive New Advance Directive Would Let Dementia Patients Refuse Food

Posted on Friday, April 13, 2018 3:52 PM

By JoNel Aleccia

A New York end-of-life agency, End of Life Choices New York, has approved a new document that let’s people stipulate in advance that they do not want food or water if they develop sever dementia.  Legally, this is unchartered and legally uncertain territory. 

Dementia, while not life threatening, is many people’s worst nightmare. This directive would allow people to decide ahead of time if they want comfort feeding only or no assisted drinking or eating at all.  People who have these directives in place are more likely to have them followed if they stay in their own home.  Patients should make their wishes known as far in advance as possible. 

“Whether the new directive will be honored in New York — or anywhere else — is unclear. Legal scholars and ethicists say directives withdrawing oral assisted feeding are prohibited in several states. Many care facilities are unlikely to cooperate, said Thaddeus Pope, director of the Health Law Institute at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., and an expert on end-of-life law. Doctors have a duty to honor patient wishes, but they can refuse if they have medical or moral qualms.”

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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