The author reviews and continues the debate initiated by her recent paper in this journal. The paper was critical of certain aspects of palliative medicine, and caused Ashby and Stoffell to modify the framework they proposed in 1991. It now takes account of the need for artificial hydration to satisfy thirst, or other symptoms due to lack of fluid intake in the terminally ill. There is also a more positive attitude to the emotional needs and ethical views of the patient's family and care-givers. However, clinical concerns about the general reluctance to use artificial hydration in terminal care remain, and doubts persist about the ethical and legal arguments used by some palliative medicine specialists and others, to justify their approach. Published contributions to the debate to date, in professional journals, are reviewed. Key statements relating to the care of sedated terminally ill patients are discussed, and where necessary criticised.
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