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April 1992

Terminal Dehydration, a Compassionate Treatment

Arch Intern Med. 1992;152(4):697-700. doi:10.1001/archinte.1992.00400160015004

Compassionate, comprehensive, yet appropriate treatment of the dying patient is difficult. It requires that the medical team be especially sensitive to the patient's needs, both physical and emotional. It also often requires that the physician determine if and when the focus of treatment, that is, the primary treatment goal, should be changed from cure, or at least controlling the disease, to comfort. For the physician who has been struggling to control the progression of a patient's disease, this, at first, seems as if admitting defeat. However, when patient care is put in perspective, it is an easier decision to make. Realistically, what can be offered to the patient is sometimes a cure, often controlling the progression of the disease, but always comfort. When it has been decided that comfort is the primary treatment goal, withdrawal of medical hydration and nutrition (that is, withdrawal of fluid and nutrition administered via the

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