Why Almost Any Cost To Others To Preserve The Life Of The Irreversibly Comatose Constitutes An Extraordinary Burden

  • Thomas J. BoleIII
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 41)


Prominent Roman Catholic thinkers have recently argued (Boyle, 1991; Grisez, 1990; May, 1990) that one is obligated to provide food and water to irreversibly comatose patients, i.e., those in a permanently vegetative state (hereinafter: PVS). Food and water are normally considered “ordinary”, ordinate, means to preserve human life, and one is normally obligated to preserve one’s own life and those of any patient in one’s charge by providing nutrition. Patients in PVS, however, are unable to swallow, and the nutrition has to be provided through a feeding tube inserted into the stomach. These thinkers deny that the invasiveness makes the provision of nutrition “extraordinary”, or non-obligatory. They think that, if one were not obligated to provide patients in PVS with food and water, one would face a morally unacceptable dilemma. Either one would be forced to choose a means to save the costs (not simply of artificially feeding the patient, but of overall care) that is homicidal, since it is effective only if the patient dies.


Tube Feeding Human Person Body Politic Artificial Nutrition Affluent Society 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1992

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  • Thomas J. BoleIII

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