Withdrawal of nutrition and hydration at the end of life

Thibaud De Blauwe (1), Michèle Pieterbourg (2) Published in the journal : April 2023 Category : Geriatry

Summary :

Discontinuing nutrition and hydration at the end of life can be a difficult decision for both caregivers and families. It is a process with an enormous symbolic significance value, involving high emotional and affective charge. There is a lack of knowledge among healthcare teams about the pathophysiology of stopping nutrition and hydration, creating a fear of “starving or dehydrating” the patient. The understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms and symptoms related to prolonged fasting were acquired thanks to the American and British experiences during the Second World War. Therefore, we are able to explain this process to families or teams in pain to try to alleviate their apprehension regarding the situation. The present work attempts to summarize these issues in order to provide caregivers with avenues to anticipate their questions and those of the patients’ families regarding nutrition and hydration withdrawal in the advanced palliative situation.

Key Words

Palliative care, end of life, withdrawal of nutrition, withdrawal of hydration