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On Being a Doctor |

Air Versus Water

J. David Baxter, MD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

From Memorial University Medical Center, Savannah, GA 31404.

Requests for Single Reprints: J. David Baxter, MD, Memorial University Medical Center, 1101 Lexington Avenue, Savannah, GA 31404; e-mail, jdavidbmd@gmail.com.

Ann Intern Med. 2010;153(9):616-617. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-153-9-201011020-00015
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What is the difference between air and water? One costs more and takes more sustained effort to deliver, but both are medical interventions with risks and benefits. When death is upon us, why do we easily withdraw or withhold one but struggle with withholding or terminating another?





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Are feeding tubes life sustaining?
Posted on November 2, 2010
Stephen R Workman
Dalhousie University Halifax Nova Scotia Canada
Conflict of Interest: None Declared

Dr Baxter, in struggling with his mother in law's treatment options for advanced Alzheimers disease, notes: 'I didn't think she would want to have a tube placed in her abdominal wall just so she could be kept alive.'

This factual comment about the efficacy of feeding tubes in improving survival should be referenced.

In a widely cited analysis of evidence about feeding tubes Finucane et al (1) note that there is no evidence that feeding tubes increase survival, or improve any other clinically important outcome.


(1) Finucane T, Christmas C, Travis K. Tube Feeding in patients with advanced dementia: A Review of the evidence JAMA. 1999;282(14):1365-1370.

Conflict of Interest:

None declared

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