This article was published by Advocate Daily on February 10, 2015.
By Hugh Scher
Oral nutrition – like spoon feeding – should not be considered health care or medical treatment, but rather seen as basic personal care and support, says Toronto health and human rights lawyer Hugh Scher, who recently advanced this position at the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
In Bentley v. Maplewood Seniors Care Society, 2014 BCSC 165 (CanLII), the family of an 84-year-old woman with advanced Alzheimer’s disease sought an order requesting that she no longer be given nourishment or liquids by staff members at The Maplewood Seniors Care Society, where the woman resides. The family stated it was their mother’s wish while she was mentally capable that she not be fed in her current condition, reads the decision.
The care centre, the Fraser Health Authority, and the Province of British Columbia opposed the petition, along with the intervenor, the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition – BC, represented by Scher.
The B.C. court sided with the care centre, ruling the woman is capable of making the decision to accept oral nutrition and hydration and is “providing her consent through her behaviour when she accepts nourishment and liquids.”
The Supreme Court ruled spoon feeding is “a form of personal care, not health care,” and “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.”