Questions and Answers: Artificial Nutrition and Hydration and End of Life Decision Making
Are life insurance policies affected if life-staining treaAre life insurance policies affected if life-staining treatments are refused? tments are refused?
No. Because death is not the result of suicide, life insurance policies are
not affected when medical treatments are stopped and the patient is allowed to
Does the medical community agree that it is ethically permissible to stop artificial nutrition and hydration?
Professional organizations such as the American Academy of Neurology,
American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Thoracic
Society and Society of Critical Care Medicine have affirmed through policy
statements that artificial nutrition and hydration are medical treatments and
their use should be evaluated in the same way that any other treatment would
Other major organizations that have issued similar policy statements or
treatment guidelines include The American Dietetic Association and the
Alzheimer's Association. However, some doctors and nurses personally believe
that it is never appropriate to with-hold or stop artificial nutrition and
hydration. It is therefore important that individuals discuss their wishes with
their physician and confirm that their wishes will be honored.
Do all nursing homes and hospitals agree that it permissible to stop artificial nutrition and hydration?
No. Some nursing homes and hospitals, for religious or other reasons, may
have policies that would prevent them from honoring a patient's legal right to
refuse treatment. Under the federal law known as the Patient Self-Determination
Act, healthcare facilities are required to let patients know at the time of
admission if they have such policies, and what those policies are.
If individuals can anticipate that they might someday receive treatment in a
particular hospital or nursing home, or if a loved one is about to be admitted
to a nursing home, they should find out what the institution's policy is in
advance. Although facilities that have such policies generally are required to
transfer a patient to a facility that will honor the patient's wishes,
practically speaking, it can be extremely difficult to arrange transfer to
another facility for the sole purpose of honoring a patient's refusal of