This Comment will address the right to withdraw nutrition and hydration from the growing number of elderly incompetent patients who are dying, but who retain some minimal level of consciousness. Part I will discuss the legal bases for the right to refuse medical treatment. It will note the state interests that are contrary to this right, and will review important judicial decisions which have addressed an incompetent individual's right to have life-sustaining treatment withdrawn. Part II will discuss state legislatures' responses to this delicate issue. Part III will focus specifically on the withdrawal of feeding tubes from elderly incompetent, but conscious, patients with severe and permanent mental and physical impairments and a limited life expectancy. Part III will recommend that courts, in determining whether such patients have a right to die, adopt a standard which characterizes artificial nutrition and hydration as a type of life-sustaining medical treatment which may be terminated. The standard adopted should be one which also gives determinative weight to the wishes of the patient or, alternatively, the patient's best interests.
Cary C. Homes, The Elderly Incompetent: The Right to Die with Dignity, 13 Campbell L. Rev. 57 (1990).