The Ethics of Food and Drink (2014)

Starvation is not mercy. Should the law compel nursing homes to starve certain Alzheimer’s patients to death? This is not an alarmist fantasy, but a real question, soon to be forced by advocates of ever-wider application of assisted euthanasia. The intellectual groundwork is already being laid for legislation or court orders requiring nursing homes, hospitals, and other facilities to withhold spoon feeding from dementia patients who, though they take food and drink willingly, once requested the withholding of life-prolonging measures in an advance medical directive. Consider the Bentley case in Canada. A lawsuit was filed in 2013 in British Columbia by the family of an Alzheimer’s patient named Margot Bentley. Bentley had signed an advance directive instructing that she be refused life-sustaining treatment—or be euthanized—if she became unable to recognize her children. Bentley is now in that lamentable condition. But she doesn’t need life-sustaining treatment like a respirator or feeding tube, and she willingly takes food and water by mouth. Moreover, euthanasia is illegal in Canada. Thus, there is no legal way of making sure she dies immediately. Bentley’s family thinks this is unjust and asked a court to order her nursing home to starve her to death. The trial court refused, in part because Bentley’s advance directive did not specifically reject spoon-feeding. The case is now on appeal. Of all the current litigation aimed at undermining the sanctity of human life, this may be the most dangerous. If successful, it would open the door to what I call VSED-by-proxy. Let me explain. Suicide itself is not illegal, and patients have long enjoyed the right to refuse medical treatment,...

Death by Dehydration Description: The Reality (2005)

Dr. David Stevens worked in Africa for 13 years. He saw first hand the complications associated with dehydration. Here is his description: “As dehydration begins there is extreme thirst, dry mouth and thick saliva. The patient develops severe cramping in the arms and legs. “In misery, the patient tries to cry but there are no tears. “The patient experiences severe abdominal cramps, nausea and dry heaving as the stomach and intestines dry out. The skin and lips crack and the tongue swells. “As mucus membranes dry out and break down, patients suffer from severe nose bleeds and a patient’s hands and feet become extremely cold as the circulatory system begins to shut down and move blood to vital organs in an attempt to keep the person alive. “The patient has problems urinating and is prone to excruciating headaches.” Dr. Stevens claims that, contrary to those who paint a picture of a gentle dying process, “Death by dehydration is a cruel, inhuman and often agonizing death.” We may also recall that when prisoners escaped from Nazi concentration camps, others were sentenced to death by starvation and dehydration because it sent fear through the other prisoners. [RTLGC,...