dmdmetz Asked May 2011

Can a doctor legally keep food and or liquid from a conscious person who can eat?

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My father is in an unfamiliar hospital with breathing problems. The staff doctor feels everything dad eats is going right into his lungs even though my father has passed a swallow test with a speech therapist. This doctor is withholding all food liquid from my father and is not giving him any IV fluid or nutrition. I'm extremely concerned. Can a doctor legally do this?

I've requested a transfer out of this hospital but this doctor won't release my dad until he (doctor) feels he is more stable which could be a day or two.

It's making me sick to think of my poor father not being able to have anything at all. Can a doctor do this?

What can I do? I think he should be able to have at least a small sip of water or small spoon of pudding every once in a while.

Thanks so much for your advice

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EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack May 2011
This sounds unusual. I hope they are at least giving him ice chips to keep his mouth moist. I would definitely ask for a second opinion as fast as possible. It's hard to see how he will become more stable without nutrition. If he were dying, they probably wouldn't give him nutrition, but this sounds totally different. Please let us know how this turns out.
Carol
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LME May 2011
If they are not feeding him by mouth, they should be giving IV's so he can get his electrolytes. They should also be inserting a feeding tube. When my mother had trouble eating, they installed a nasal G-tube, then surgically inplanted a stomach tube. She gained weight by the way. Unless there are orders to not offer nutrution, this is not right. Please complain to the Administration of the hospital. You can even report the doctor to the American Medical Association. Unless he has signed orders to not provide nutrition, this is wrong.
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dmdmetz May 2011
Thank you both for your answers. I had my father transferred out of this hospital ASAP by his PCP. Once in his "regular" hospital an immediate swallow eval with xray was done and was shown to me. My father was not aspirating everything in his lungs as this doctor had said. Upon returning to the care of my father's PCP and pulmonary doctor it was determined that due to other issues a nasal tube would have been dangerous and surgery to insert a PEG tube would have put my father in far more danger than eating.

My father was admitted to ICU and was feed immediately. His pulmonary doctor is trying various things to stabilize lung function and he was released from ICU today. In a few days he will be sent to a rehab facility for PT.

This was the horrible decision of one hospitalist who did not know my father or his many (unusual) medical problems. This doctor would not listen to family concerns or to my father as his patient who did not want a feeding tube. (our choice was (a) no food at all, or (b) feeding tube. I believe this doctor would have put in a feeding tube against my father's will and against the family's) After my father is in rehab I am seriously considering reporting this doctor. He did not have all the information on my father's condition, such as a large hiatal hernia that would make a PEG tube a very difficult surgery, my father's severe COPD, or the fact that due to a long ago accident my father has plates holding his jaws together making intubation for surgery extremely difficult and risky. This was a horrible experience for our family and I am changing my father's rehab place so he is not in the "area" of this horrible hospital, but in the area of his "regular" hospital with his PCP and pulmonary doctor.

Thanks again for your answers. I don't wish this experience on anyone.
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jeannegibbs May 2011
I am so sorry that you had this horrible experience, and glad that it has been resolved. Who has medical power of attorney for your father? If that hasn't been taken care of this might be the catalyst to get it done!
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I am glad also that you got your father transfered...this is a very tough road to go down and we have to be the watchmen for our dear family members...good luck!
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