We've heard a lot in the past few days about feeding tubes. Terry Schiavo had one in her stomach. Now, the pope has one too, but it's inserted through the nose. So, what's the difference?
In both cases, the tubes deliver nutrition to patients too sick to eat on their own, but most nasal tubes are temporary. That's because they can cause sinus problems and nasal sores. If the pope's ability to swallow doesn't improve, the next step could be surgical insertion of a feeding tube in the stomach like the one recently removed from Terri Schiavo.
But here's the biggest difference in the Schiavo case. "She is in a persistent vegetative state. In that state, there is no awareness. There is no perception. There's no feeling of thirst. There's no feeling of hunger, no feelings of pain," says Dr. Arthur St. Andre, with Washington Hospital Center.
The pope, of course, can still feel pain and hunger. But Dr. St. Andre says normally, the throat and mouth are numbed when they insert the feeding tube to keep it from being too uncomfortable and to keep the patient from gagging.