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Medicina (Buenos Aires)

Print version ISSN 0025-7680On-line version ISSN 1669-9106


FUSTINONI, Osvaldo  and  SOCIEDAD NEUROLOGICA ARGENTINA. Grupo de trabajo en Bioética et al. Suspensión de soporte vital en el estado vegetativo permanente y muerte digna. Medicina (B. Aires) [online]. 2020, vol.80, n.1, pp.48-53. ISSN 0025-7680.

Patient relatives often request withdrawal of life support, especially artificial nutrition and hydration, in cases of permanent vegetative or minimally conscious state, and resort to court in case of disagreement. Two recent cases of withdrawal authorized by the courts concerned, one from abroad and one from Argentina, have been controversial. Although it may appear inhuman to stop feeding and hydrating such patients, to continue it only prolongs a state of irreversible biological subsistence. Families tend to increasingly accept withdrawal if the patient status remains unchanged. However, concern persists regarding the suffering that patients may undergo from onset of withdrawal till death, even though such suffering is little conceivable in the absence of cortical function and conscience content. While doctors and the layman consider ethical to withdraw life support, a nonnegligible proportion of doctors consider that vegetative state patients, even more minimally conscious state patients, do experience hunger, thirst and pain. In some countries, like the United Kingdom, strict withdrawal criteria were proposed, together with pharmacological treatment schemes for the distress arising during the withdrawal period, even though its benefit is controversial. In Argentina, two scientific societies have publicly advocated withdrawal, but not issued formal guidelines. In any case, both "dignified death" Law 26.742 and the Civil Code consent withdrawal of life support, if accompanied by appropriate relief of clinical symptoms indicating suffering.

Keywords : Permanent vegetative state; Withdrawal of life support.

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