Artificial provisions of nutrition and fluids
Artificial provisions of nutrition and fluids, also called “tube-feeding,” is used either temporarily or permanently when patients are unable to swallow.
There are three ways to provide artificial nutrition and fluids:
- The nasogastric tube, which is inserted through the nose into the stomach
- The gastrostomy tube, which is inserted surgically through the stomach wall
- Intravenous tubes, placed into veins in the arms or chest
Nevada law permits individuals to refuse tube-feeding, just as patients may refuse other medical treatment. However, some doctors are reluctant to withhold or withdraw tube-feeding from an unconscious patient unless the patient has left specific instructions to do so.
Death usually occurs within two to 14 days after tube-feeding is withheld or withdrawn. Many people worry that the lack of food and water will mean a painful death. Tube-feeding is most commonly withheld or withdrawn when people are unconscious or on the verge of death.
By this stage, most patients have lost the desire for nourishment and the sensation of thirst or pain. As a precaution against discomfort, however, comfort care is routinely provided in the interim before death.