May Alzheimer’s Patients Refuse Tube Feeding? Yet More Questions on the Papal Allocution—and Perhaps an Answer

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Abstract

The implications of Pope John Paul II's 2004 Allocution on vegetative states remain unclear despite dozens of articles and a recent clarifying statement from the Vatican. Yet few have considered its implications for those with end-stage progressive dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease. Although recent studies suggest tube feeding is burdensome and not beneficial for such patients, the Allocution would nonetheless seem to forbid patients from forgoing it. But this seems to be in tension with the Catholic bioethical tradition as a whole and may therefore be a consequence that the pope did not intend. Because the recent Vatican clarification specifically addresses Alzheimer’s, it is especially important to know what duties it intends to impose on those with dementia. Problems with how it would apply to such patients casts doubt on whether it should be applied to patients in vegetative states at all.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-139
Number of pages17
JournalChristian Bioethics
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Keywords

  • Alzheimer's
  • dementia
  • artificial nutrition
  • euthanasia
  • Tony Bland
  • Terry Schiavo
  • John Paul II
  • tube feeding
  • persistent vegetative state

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