Originally published in allaboutestates.ca on Feb 6, 2014:
On February 4, 2014, Dying with Dignity issued the following statement:
“The BC Supreme Court issued its judgement today in the case of Margot Bentley. Ruling that feeding by mouth is basic care, rather than health care, Margot’s family’s appeal for the feeding to stop has been dismissed.
The judge gave six reasons for the decision:
1. Mrs. Bentley is capable of making the decision to accept oral nutrition and hydration and is providing her consent through her behavior when she accepts nourishment and liquids;
2. The assistance with feeding that she is currently receiving must continue;
Bentley v. Maplewood Seniors Care Society Page 44
3. The provision of oral nutrition and hydration by prompting with a glass or spoon is a form of personal care, not health care within the meaning of the HCCCFA Act;
4. Neither the 1991 Statement of Wishes nor the Second Statement of Wishes constitute a valid representation agreement or advance directive;
5. Even if Mrs. Bentley was found incapable of making the decision to accept oral nutrition and hydration, I am not satisfied that the British Columbia legislature intended to allow reference to previously expressed wishes or substitute decision makers to be relied on to refuse basic personal care that is necessary to preserve life;
6. Withdrawing oral nutrition and hydration for an adult that is not capable of making that decision would constitute neglect within the meaning of the Adult Guardianship Act.
Executive Director Wanda Morris commented on the decision:
“Margot worked on a dementia ward as a nurse so she knew first hand what dying by dementia would look like. She was always so clear that she didn’t want to live this way, but unfortunately circumstances have unfolded so that her family are unable to uphold her wishes. That she is living this way and may now continue to do so for years into the future is indeed a tragedy. ”
Reportedly Mrs. Bentley signed the Living Will- in which she asked not to be fed or given water if she develops an incapacitating, incurable disease- in 1991, nearly a decade before she was diagnosed with Alzheimers. She has been in a vegetative state since late 2011. The family has pleaded that her wishes be respected. What more needs to be done?