Expert Answer Forum

Tube feeding QUESTION from Roy Reeder April 28, 2000 Mr. Miskell:
Your computer was still crashed when I sent this to Priests For Life. My mother in law is living with us and she has Alzheimer's Disease. Being a RN and Catholic, I know what the outcome can be like. When a person is deprived of food and water, they go into a catabolic state, which is painful by the way. I asked PFL what was the Churches teachings on tube feedings and this was Fr.'s reply:

Dear Roy, Food and water are not medicine. They are nourishment. Therefore, even if they are delivered via a tube, they are not medical and do not fall under the ordinary/extraordinary distinction which applies to medicine. One cannot allow people to starve to death or to dehydrate to the point of death.
If a conscious patient absolutely refuses to eat (even one who is mentally less than fully competent) one cannot make them eat, but for an incompetent patient, they must be fed.
This teaching is in the Instruction to Health Care Workers of the Vatican. Further, I did a little three-page bulletin insert on this whole question and it is obtainable from Leaflet Missal in St. Paul, MN 55106 (651)487-2818. (There is also an 800 no., but I don't have it.
Thanks for writing Priests For Life.
Fr. Hogan Associate National Director

ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on April 30, 2000 Dear Roy,
Thanks for sharing this with us.
In Christ,
John Miskell
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