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October 9, 1967

Prolongation of Life or Prolonging the Act of Dying?

JAMA. 1967;202(2):162-163. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03130150130052

One of my patients has advanced cerebral arteriosclerosis and has been in a state of semicon-sciousness for three months. The nutrition of this aged woman is maintained by means of stomach-tube feeding and occasional parenteral feedings. This is obviously an incurable disease, and the patient would not recognize family members even if she were to become somewhat more alert. In comparable instances, such as in patients with incurable diseases which are very painful, or when maintenance of life in the incurable patient results in great financial hardship, does the physician have the obligation or right to prolong life under all circumstances? Who decides?