- Article: Beland P (2012) Ethical issues around continuous deep sedation without hydration. Nursing Times; 108: 38, 24-27.
- Patients dying of cancer may require continuous deep sedation to alleviate symptoms at the end of life
- Such patients, being unable to drink, could be artificially hydrated to lengthen survival and limit thirst
- The issue of artificial hydration for such patients arouses highly divergent opinions
- Failing to hydrate sedated patients can be likened to “slow euthanasia”, but there are arguments for such practice
- Artificially hydrating these patients might improve or worsen symptoms - but a lack of reliable evidence makes it impossible to know
The author of this article poses this question: “When terminally ill patients are given continuous deep sedation without hydration, should we call it a form of palliative care, or is it in fact slow euthanasia? What do you think?
When it is appropriate to use sedation in palliative care?
The author of this article explains why relatives may express concern when a patient does not drink during the terminal phase, or if fluids are withheld while deep sedation is required for symptom control. How would you explain the rationale for withholding artificial hydration to a relative?
Why do some relatives see failure to give artificial hydration as abandonment?
Artificial hydration in the terminal phase of life may cause complications. Outline what these are and how they can affect patients’ condition.