Is there a legal and ethical distinction between basic nutritional care and tube feeding?
Legal judgments in the Tony Bland case and similar cases in this and other countries have regarded tube feeding for adults as a medical treatment. This is a crucial judgment because, if accepted, it means that like any other medical intervention a tube feed should form part of a treatment plan with a defined goal. It can be argued conversely that a nasogastric tube is simply a special utensil used for feeding and that tube feeding is therefore part of basic care. However, in view of its invasive nature, most health carers accept the legal judgment, except perhaps for infants who cannot suck when use of a tube may be regarded as part of basic care.