When a patient or family member has to decide whether or no a feeding tube is an appropriate life prolonging procedure, it is almost always a difficult decision. And it should be a difficult decision. It should require much thought, prayer, and even debate. Whenever a family or patient arrives at this bridge and must cross it, many, many things must be considered.
I realize my writing thus far might lead you to believe that I am completely against feeding tubes. Generally speaking I am not in favor of them. However, there are cases where feeding tubes might be appropriate.
I have a close friend whose mother was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Mary, I shall call her, was in her 50’s at the time, and the cancer was in an early enough stage that chemo treatment was decided upon. After several treatments, she lost her ability to eat. The decision was made to insert a feeding tube. This tube allowed her to live through the chemo treatments which put the cancer into remission. She ate food and lived fairly well for another year or two before the cancer became active again and she passed away. In her case the feeding tube was entirely appropriate. The time it bought her was quality time. She had the ability to go and do many things, share time with her granddaughter, tell stories, laugh and enjoy life. I was glad that she had been given the feeding tube.
On the other side of this question, if the time bought is life with very little quality, then perhaps inserting a feeding tube is not the best decision. Oh, yes, this is hard. Allowing a loved one to just die is so very hard. There are not many harder things in life. Could I have allowed Mother to just die from pneumonia caused by food particles going into her lungs? Yes, I think so, because by that point she was ready to go to heaven.
What about myself? Would I want a feeding tube for myself? Again, it would depend on the circumstances which has brought me to that bridge? I will not cross that bridge for myself ahead of time, nor do I recommend that anyone make that decision ahead of time.
I share these thoughts with you as just a ‘regular person’. I am not a health care professional and I have had no medical training. My reasons for and against feeding tubes are just that: my reasons. Each and every family that faces this situation must make their own decision for their own reasons. The decision must be made based on the best information you have at the moment, then you proceed forward, having as few regrets as possible.