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Hastings Cent Rep. 1986 Feb;16(1):28-30.

Why food and fluids can never be denied.



Derr, a philosopher, served as an expert witness in Brophy v. New England Sinai Hospital (decided 21 October 1985), in which a Massachusetts probate court ruled that a gastrostomy tube could not be removed from a patient who had been in a persistent vegetative state for more than two years. Printed here is an edited version of Derr's testimony, during the course of which he presents "six mutually reinforcing biological, social, historical, and ethical considerations" which he believes distinguish withholding or withdrawing food and fluids from withholding or withdrawing medical or surgical therapies. He warns that a social and legal decision to deny food and fluids to patients like Paul Brophy would attack the ethical foundations of law and medicine, and argues that the distinction between sustenance and therapy should be sustained.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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