Lawsuit launched over Alzheimer patient’s ‘living will’

Nursing home in Abbotsford is spoon feeding Margaret Bentley despite 'statement of wishes' she wrote when she was well.

A civil suit has been launched on behalf of a woman in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease who is being spoon fed by staff at an Abbotsford nursing home, despite wishes she expressed in her living will.

Margaret Bentley, 82, prepared a “statement of wishes” in 1991, eight years before the onset of her condition, stating that she be fed “no nourishment or liquids” if she were in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.

As a former nurse, she had seen what the condition is like, and “she wished to be allowed to die if she reached such a state,” according to a petition filed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Bentley by her husband, John, and her daughter, Katherine Hammond, who are serving as her representatives.

The pair state that Bentley continued to stress her wishes when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1999 at the age of 68.

By 2005, John could no longer care for his wife, and she moved into Ebenezer Home in Abbotsford. She was transferred to Maplewood House in 2009.

The petition to the court states that Bentley has been in a “vegetative state” since 2010. She no longer recognizes family members, has not spoken and makes limited physical movements.

“Her eyes are closed most of the time and she lies motionless in bed or slumped in a wheelchair,” the documents state.

In late 2011, Bentley’s daughter, husband and doctor agreed that she no longer be fed food or liquids, in accordance with her living will.

A request was made to transfer her to a palliative care facility, but it was denied by the Fraser Health Authority (FHA).

The documents state that personnel at Maplewood House and representatives of FHA refused to comply with Bentley’s wishes, saying they had received a legal opinion that it would be illegal for them to deny her nourishment and that it would constitute neglect under the Adult Guardianship Act.

The petition to the court states that FHA also directed Maplewood staff that if Bentley’s daughter or husband tried to remove her from the premises, the Abbotsford Police should be contacted.

Bentley is now in stage seven – the final stage – of her degenerative dementia, according to the documents.

Refusal to follow Bentley’s wishes amounts to “battery” and a breach of her charter rights, the petition states.

The petition seeks an order from the court that FHA and Maplewood Seniors Care Society comply with Bentley’s statement of wishes that she not be fed and that they cannot prevent her family from removing her from the nursing home.