This story out of the UK is disturbing and a warning about where the “quality of life” ethic can take us. A 91-year old had a stroke. Rather than treat her, her family charges, doctors instead let her lie in bed and die of starvation. This, even though she begged for food!
We have no grounds for looking down our noses. In Florida, Marjorie Nighbert was dehydrated to death by court order even though she begged for food. As I described in Culture of Death: As she slowly dehydrating to death, Marjorie began to ask the staff for food:
“She was saying things like, ‘Please feed me, I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, and I want food,'” attorney William F. Stone told me, who briefly represented Marjorie as a court-appointed guardian. In response to her pleas, members of the nursing staff surreptitiously gave her small amounts of food and water. One eventually blew the whistle, leading to a state investigation and a brief restraining order requiring that Marjorie be nourished
Stone was appointed Marjorie’s temporary guardian by Circuit Court Judge Jere Tolton, who instructed Stone to conduct a twenty-four hour inquiry, the sole issue being whether Marjorie was competent to rescind her power of attorney and make her own decisions. After the rushed investigation, Stone was forced to report to the judge that she was not competent at that time. She had, after all been intentionally malnourished for several weeks. Stone particularly noted that he had been unable to determine whether she was competent when the dehydration commenced.
With Stone’s report in hand, the judge decided to allow the dehydration to be completed, apparently on the theory that Marjorie did not have the competence to request the medical treatment of food and water. Nighbert died on April 6, 1995. Stone told me he would have appealed but he, and his client, ran out of time.