Tube feeding controversial patients: what do dietitians think?

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The use of tube feeding in some patients can be controversial, however, few studies have investigated dietitians' opinions on this subject. A cross-sectional survey of 345 members the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute was conducted using a self-administered, anonymous, postal questionnaire. A 44% response rate was achieved. Mean number of years qualified was 9.3 (8.4). Eighty-one per cent of responders were involved in initiating tube feeding in stroke patients, and 8.5% in discontinuing tube feeding in a patient in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). Nine per cent felt that their input had no influence on the care plan of the patient with dementia and 67% felt that the information given to families (or other decision makers) concerning tube feeding was inadequate. The majority of respondents favoured tube feeding fictitious stroke and cancer patients, but less than half favoured tube feeding a fictitious patient in a PVS or a patient with dementia. When given similar scenarios involving themselves, fewer dietitians wanted to be tube fed.

Keywords: dementia; dietitian; ethics; opinion; patient; tube feeding

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Biological Sciences, Dublin Institute of Technology, Kevin Street, Dublin, Republic of Ireland 2: Northern Area Health Board, North Circular Road, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Publication date: December 1, 2002

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