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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Court Won’t Order Alzheimer’s Woman Starved



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I am very relieved, and mildly surprised. 

A family that sought a court order requiring a nursing home to starve their wife/mother to death has been refused. From the CBC story:

Justice Greyell found Bentley, through her [Margot Bentley's] behaviour, consented to receiving nourishment and fluids and that such feeding must continue.

In his ruling, Greyell found Bentley’s family believed her incapable of making the decision to continue eating, and acted with the best intentions of carrying out her wishes. However he found it is “clearly not settled law that a substitute decision maker has authority to refuse the provision of oral nutrition and hydration, such as prompting with a spoon or a glass, on behalf of an adult who is incapable of making that decision.”

Not only that, but the advance directive was irrelevant. Those documents allow surrogates to refuse unwanted medical treatment on behalf of a patient.  But this case does not involve medical treatment.

Rather, the family wanted spoon feeding to stop. That isn’t medicine, it is humane care.

Good for the judge. It would have been a terrible thing if a nursing home could have been ordered to starve a patient to death. 

Alas, one day they might be able to order her lethally injected. But we aren’t there yet, and hopefully never will be. 



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