[Skip to Navigation]
Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address Please contact the publisher to request reinstatement.
January 1985

Against the Emerging Stream: Should Fluids and Nutritional Support Be Discontinued?

Author Affiliations

From the Section of General Internal Medicine and the Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, University of Chicago-Pritzker School of Medicine, Chicago (Dr Siegler); and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, New York (Dr Weisbard).

Arch Intern Med. 1985;145(1):129-131. doi:10.1001/archinte.1985.00360010167027

The powerful rhetoric of "death with dignity" has gained intellectual currency and practical importance in recent years. Initially, this rhetoric was a plea for more humane and individualized treatment in the face of the sometimes cold and impersonal technologic imperatives of modern medicine. As such, it brought needed attention to the plight of dying patients and prompted legal and clinical changes that empowered such patients (and, at times, their representatives) to assert some control over the manner, if not the fact, of their dying. The death with dignity movement has advanced to a new frontier: the termination or withdrawal of fluids and nutritional support.

As recently as five years ago, or perhaps three, the idea that fluids and nutriment might be withdrawn, with moral and perhaps legal impunity, from dying patients, was a notion that would have been repudiated, if not condemned, by most health professionals. They would have regarded