The Corner

Push Continues to Starve Dementia Patients

People have the right to refuse medical treatment, including in an advance directive.

But they do not–and most definitely, should not–have the right to force caregivers to starve them to death when sustenance is not medically delivered, e.g. spoon feeding.

There has already been one Canadian case–lost–to force a nursing home to starve an Alzheimer’s patient. Now, in Oregon, another such dispute. From the Mail Tribune story:

Although food isn’t being shoved in Nora’s mouth, Crain said in some ways Nora is being forced to eat because if she were still competent she would not want the spoon-feeding intervention.

After consulting an expert on appeals, Harris has decided not to challenge Crain’s decision. Continuing the fight likely would cost $10,000 — but more importantly, the appeal would be halted if Nora dies. Harris doesn’t think she would survive the 18-month to three-year protracted court battle.

The case has experts who prepare advance directives wondering whether they should start bringing up the issue of spoon-feeding with their clients.

Good grief! Everyone’s desire to be dead under very difficult circumstances can’t be accommodated if we are to remain a moral society. The big picture matters too.

Oregon has legal assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Anyone can refuse life-prolonging medical treatment.

And now, some families and bioethicists–supported by friendly media stories–want to be able to force nursing homes to starve incompetent patients who willingly eat.

Who will go into that caring profession if they know they could be forced to starve patients to death who not only can eat, but may want to eat?

I repeat: Spoon feeding is not medical treatment, which are the subject of advance directives. It is humane care.

So are keeping the patient clean, turned, and warm. If someone says they want to freeze to death if they become incompetent should a nursing home nurse be required be put them outside in a snow storm?

Elder abuse is already a huge problem, including old people denied sufficient nutrition. Can you imagine the horror if this new culture of death thrust prevails?

What’s that you ask? Yes, of course the point is to open the door lethally injecting dementia patients!

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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