Food and water are withheld and withdrawn without consulting the patient in 80% of cases in Belgium

Publié le : 28 March 2014

 A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics revealed that, in Belgium, in 80% of cases, most decisions to withhold and withdraw food and water are taken without the patient’s consent despite his/her right to be consulted. This decision leads to the patient’s death.

This study was carried out by scientists at the Universities of Brussels and Ghent. They found that the patients were not consulted because of their dementia (40%), because they were unconscious (35%) or because this decision "was deemed to be in the patient’s best interest" (8%).

As far as the authors of this study are concerned, patient consent is "vital" and a more in-depth consultation is required. They recommend that medical staff, patients and their families have thorough discussions on treatment options and the possibility of withholding and withdrawing food and water. They suggest that this discussion should be held earlier in the process, as part of the preliminary treatment plan and not at the end of the patient’s life.

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