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Artificial Nutrition (Food) and Hydration (Fluids) at the End of Life
It is very common for doctors to provide fluids and food to people who are very sick or recovering from surgery. This is called “artificial nutrition and hydration” and like all medical treatments, it can be helpful or harmful depending on the situation.
When there is no hope of recovery from an illness or an injury, decisions about artificial nutrition and hydration at the end of life can be very difficult, especially for loved ones. If the person who is ill or injured cannot communicate, families can have different opinions and be torn apart.
In order to make an informed decision about artificial nutrition and hydration at the end of life, it is essential to understand how the body processes food and fluids. The information below explains the medical facts about artificial nutrition and hydration at the end of life so that you can make informed decisions for yourself or a loved one.
What is artificial nutrition and hydration?
Artificial nutrition and hydration is a medical treatment that allows a person to receive nutrition (food) and hydration (fluids) when they are no longer able to take them by mouth.
When is it used? How is it given?
Artificial nutrition and hydration is given to a person who for some reason cannot eat or drink enough to sustain life or health. Doctors can provide nutrition and hydration through intravenous (IV) administration or by putting a tube in the stomach.
Is artificial nutrition and hydration different from ordinary eating and drinking?
Yes, providing artificial nutrition and hydration requires technical skill and has many serious risks. Professional skill and training are necessary to insert the tube, to make decisions about how much and what type of nutrition to give, and to monitor for side effects.
Artificial nutrition and hydration do not offer the comforts that come from the taste
and texture of food and liquids. Doctors and nurses control when and how much will
be given rather than a person.

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