A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled that an Abbotsford nursing home must continue to feed an Alzheimer’s patient, despite her family’s wishes.
Justice Bruce Greyell presented his decision Monday in Vancouver in the petition brought forward by the daughter and husband of Margaret Bentley.
Katherine Hammond and John Bentley filed the petition against Maplewood Seniors’ Care Society, the Fraser Health Authority and the provincial government.
They presented a written “statement of wishes” completed by Bentley, a former nurse, in 1991 – eight years before the onset of her condition – that she be fed “no nourishment or liquids” if she were in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.
They stated she continued to stress her wishes when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1999 at the age of 68.
She was moved into Ebenezer Home in Abbotsford in 2005, and was transferred to Maplewood House in 2009.
According to court documents, Bentley has been in a “vegetative state” since 2010, no longer recognizes family members, has not spoken and makes limited physical movements.
Maplewood staff have been feeding her by spoon and offering her liquids. They stated she opens her mouth when a glass or spoon is placed on her lower lip, but also refuses nourishment by keeping her mouth closed.
They argued that denying her food and allowing her to die would constitute neglect and would be a criminal act.
Greyell agreed that Bentley must continue to be fed.
“The finding that Mrs. Bentley is currently capable of making the decision to eat and drink and is communicating her consent through her behaviour means that those providing her with care must continue to offer her assistance with feeding in the form of prompting her with a spoon or glass.”
Greyell also referenced portions of Bentley’s “living will” in which she stated that she “not be kept alive by artificial means or heroic measures.”
He said the most likely interpretation of those words is that Bentley did not want the use of a feeding tube.
“I do not believe many people would consider eating with a spoon or drinking from a glass, even when done with assistance, ‘artificial.’ “
Greyell said denying Bentley food or drink would amount to neglect under the Adult Guardianship Act.