Human Exceptionalism

It’s Not Over ‘Till It’s Over

This story demonstrates why we should be very wary of removing feeding tubes. An eleven year-old little girl named Denise Monteiro was apparently beaten by her step-father. She was diagnosed as PVS. Doctors said she would never improve. The court ordered her removed from respirator and tube feeding. She breathed on her own and apparently is beginning to respond. New tests have been ordered.

Whether or not Denise improves, it seems to me she should not be removed from food and water, based solely on her cognitive capacity. Nutritional termination can only have one result: Death. As a consequence, I believe the decision to withdraw or withhold such care should be treated differently than other such decisions. Benefits of doubt should go to providing nutritional sustenance. Indeed, in my view, absent clear written instructions by the patient or the presence of other urgent medical issues, dehydration should never be done based on the decisions of others, particularly if they are steeped in quality of life considerations about the lack of a life worth living.

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