ETHICAL ISSUES IN THE FEEDING OF PATIENTS SUFFERING FROM DEMENTIA: A FOCUS GROUP STUDY OF HOSPITAL STAFF RESPONSES TO CONFLICTING PRINCIPLES


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Abstract

Feeding difficulties in older patients who are suffering from dementia present problems with balancing conflicting ethical principles. They have been considered by several writers in recent years, and the views of nursing and care staff have been studied in different contexts. The present study used focus groups to explore the way in which nursing and care staff in a National Health Service trust deal with conflict between ethical principles in this area. Three focus groups were convened, one each from the staff of three wards caring for patients with dementia. Case histories were discussed and transcripts analysed. It emerged that staff were aware of making fine judgements of utility concerning the spectrum of feeding methods available. Informants gave some weight to the principle of autonomy, but sought to balance that against their commitment to care. In explaining their perspectives, informants gave more weight to personal attitudes and trust culture than to professional ethics

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