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Can someone refuse a feeding tube if a doctor says it is necessary?

Dad keeps choking on his food, we have tried different consistencies and textures but it hasn't helped. He is now afraid to eat and rapidly losing weight. His doctor is discussing a feeding tube but he is refusing. What can we do?
Status: Open    Dec 20, 2014 - 11:31 AM

Senior Health & Nutrition

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Expert Answers

Apr 16, 2015 - 02:37 PM

A patient does have a right to refuse a feeding tube, as long as he is capable of making an informed decision. Make sure that your father knows the advantages and disadvantages of a feeding tube.

If your dad is choking on his food and fluids, there is a danger that he will aspirate the food and cause pneumonia. You may have to request a special meeting, for you and your dad, with his doctor.

The answer given by rtkyle provides an excellent example of the advantages of a feeding tube. With patients that I have cared for feeding tubes have helped them be so much more comfortable.

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Feb 08, 2015 - 04:28 PM

My 91-year-old father suffered a severe stroke about 5 months ago. During recovery, he was unable to swallow properly. The doctor recommended a feeding tube because a nasal tube could not deliver enough nutrition, and aspiration to the lungs was a real possibility.
My Dad wasn't really alert enough to make his own decision, but had always said he did not want heroic efforts to keep him alive. I was really perplexed, but the doctor explained that the PEG tube was a very simple procedure, and easily removed if/when Dad improved. The doctor also told me the suffering associated with starving to death, and asked if I was ready to deal with that decision. I finally agreed to do the tube, and I'm glad I did.
The tube does not prohibit eating by mouth, only allows sufficient nutrition to be delivered as needed. As my Pop improved through therapy, he was able to move from pureed to more solid food while keeping the tube. When the tube is removed, it usually does not even require stitches.
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