Forced Starvation Attempt Appeal Dismissed

by Wesley J. Smith

Good news: The case that sought to force a nursing home to starve an Alzheimer’s patient to death–even though she willingly took nourishment–has been dismissed. From the Advocate Daily story:

The British Columbia Court of Appeal has dismissed a request from the family of an 83-year-old woman that their mother no longer be given nourishment or liquids by staff members at the nursing home where she resides, says Toronto health and human rights lawyer Hugh Scher…

Justice Mary Newbury agreed with a lower court judge, ruling that the woman, who has advanced Alzheimer’s disease, is exercising her consent when she opens her mouth to accept food and water, despite her family’s position that it was her wish while she was mentally capable that she not be fed in her current condition...

“I recognize the terribly difficult situation in which Mrs. Bentley’s family find themselves and I appreciate the disappointment they must feel in being unable to comply with what they believe to have been her wishes and what they believe still to be her wishes,” writes Newbury. “It is a grave thing, however, to ask or instruct caregivers to stand by and watch a patient starve to death. 

In contrast to tube feeding, oral nutrition is humane care, not medical treatment. As such, it cannot be ordered removed.

I am very relieved. But this only marks the beginning of the debate about forced starvation in nursing homes, not the end. The bioethics movement already treats the issue as respectable–with pro-starvation articles appearing in some of the most notable professional journals.

Of course, all of this is aimed at legalizing lethal injections of the demented–as is permitted in the Netherlands. With Canada’s Supreme Court forcing euthanasia into nation-wide legalization, look for this to be a trending issue in bioethical debates and among the killing-is-an-acceptable-answer-to-human-suffering crowd.