An elderly woman is in a coma. Although there are good chances that she will regain consciousness and restore health, it might take years. Her son has to decide whether to keep feeding tubes in or not. The issue relating to inserting feeding tubes is very complicated. Many clinicians insist on using feeding tubes, disregarding possible drawbacks of this procedure. On the other hand, various specialists argue the necessity of this measure. Nonetheless, not only is the application of this method consistent with the principles of morality but also feeding tubes are necessary for severely ill patients (Korcz). First, these medical devices allow life to be prolonged for a long period. Second, feeding tubes are a very convenient feeding option. Third, feeding tubes do not have severe permanent effects. The main goal of this paper is to discuss the advantages and drawbacks of the application of feeding tubes in severely ill patients.
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As noted above, many clinicians emphasize the cons of inserting feeding tubes. This approach can cause infection. Regarding the weak and vulnerable condition of a patient, the insertion of a feeding tube increases the risk of serious inflammation and infestation (Imperato and Danowski). Another negative factor is overflow. The stomach sends signals to the brain when the body requires food or water. There is not such a connection between the stomach and a feeding tube. Stomach overfilling may cause serious complications that include infections and backups of fluid in the lungs (“Life-Sustaining Treatment”). Also, feeding tubes cause physical discomfort.
Although the mentioned above disadvantages often occur, positive effects outweigh them. The main purpose of feeding tubes is to sustain life in patients who cannot eat on their own. Without such assistance, these people do not have any chance to recover. It is possible to note that approximately 500,000 people in the United States depend on feeding tubes (“Feeding Tube Awareness Week”). There is not another option for such patients. People who suffer neurological or mechanical disorders throughout the world require the application of this method. Therefore, these medical devices are essential for an enormous number of patients.
Also, feeding tubes are one of the easiest ways for enteral nutrition (EN). Nearly 247,000 out of 39,541,948 patients received EN during their hospital stay in the United States in 2007 (“Feeding Tube Awareness Week”). This method is much more effective than hand-feeding. Compared to parenteral nutrition (PN), it is also a much cheaper way to feed comatose patients. Finally, EN reduces septic disorders in comparison with PN.
Also, other negative factors might be controlled. Abiding by the principles of patient-centered care allows reducing the risk of any complications (“List of Pros”). If used correctly, feeding tubes do not cause any permanent severe conditions. According to Blumenstein et al., “the success rate of endoscopic transnasal and transoral NET feeding tube placement has been described to range from 86% to 97%” (8506). Although this procedure demands the high professional competence of medical personnel, various training programs aim at increasing the required skills.
In conclusion, the benefits of the application of feeding tubes outweigh their drawbacks. This method is widely used in comatose patients. Many people throughout the world rely on enteral nutrition. Although it might cause some serious medical conditions, it is an easy procedure for skillful and competent personnel. Finally, the moral side of this issue plays a crucial role in making decisions on the insertion of feeding tubes. This method offers hope for salvation to severely ill patients.
Blumenstein, Irina et al. “Gastroenteric Tube Feeding: Techniques, Problems and Solutions.” World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG, vol. 20, no. 26, 2014, pp. 8505-8524.
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“Feeding Tube Awareness Week.” Feeding Tube Awareness Week 2018. 2016, Web.
Imperato, Theresa, and Lorraine Danowski. “Information About Feeding Tubes.” ALS Association, Web.
“Life Sustaining Treatment.” Compassion and Support, Web.
“List of Pros and Cons of Feeding Tubes.” OccupyTheory. 2015, Web.
Korcz, Keith. “Moral Reasoning in Applied Ethics.” UCS, Web.