Must we insert the feeding tube in the first place?


My grandmother is in her nineties, is virtually bedridden, almost always asleep, and has pretty poor mental functioning. While she doesn’t have Alzheimer’s Disease, her progression is similar to it. In the case of very elderly patients with either Alzheimer’s Disease or other similar conditions, it is common that the major body systems do not stop working before the person “forgets” how or becomes unable to eat. I suspect this will happen with my grandmother as well.

Assuming we do not expect a feeding tube to cause much trouble for a patient, are they obligated to insert one because it could prolong life significantly? Or is being very old, and having a body that is (perhaps quite slowly) in the process of dying, enough reason to not require such an intervention?


Questions such as this one demand highly-individualized answers based upon unique circumstances. Therefore, I recommend that you contact the National Catholic Bioethics Center for assistance. They will know what information about your grandmother’s case they need for an ethical determination to be made, and they have the specialized training in Catholic bioethics that we do not have. God bless.

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