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Family sues caregivers to stop feeding mom

Katherine Hammond holding a photo of her mother, Margaret Bentley.

A lawsuit has been filed by the daughter of a Canadian Alzheimer’s patient against members of a nursing home staff claiming that their actions to spoon-feed her are akin to “battery” and she should be left to die.

The case of Margaret Bentley, who is at the Fraser Health nursing home in Abbotsford, B.C.,, is being reported by the Vancouver Sun.

The central issue in the developing Canadian legal battle is the right of a significantly impaired person to die.

A case of an impaired woman who fought for the right to live played out in the United States several years ago in the case of Terri Schiavo. WND covered the story of Schiavo’s husband’s attempt to withdraw food and water and let her die and the heroic struggle by her parents and brother to maintain her life.

According to the Sun report, a lawsuit was filed early this week in the British Columbia Supreme Court against the health care facility by Katherine Hammond, Bentley’s daughter and co-plaintiff with Bentley’s second husband, John.

She told the newspaper: “I feel terrible that this part of her life has been made public, but on the other hand, my mom would want to see this issue addressed. So my hope is that we can move from a place of sadness to one of a lasting legacy,” Hammond said.

“End-of-life care directives are obviously in a gray zone if health providers are misinterpreting or misapplying laws. So yes, this will be precedent-setting,” she said.

Officials for the provincial government, as well as the health facility, declined comment because the dispute is in the courts.

Read WND’s unparalleled, in-depth coverage of the life-and-death fight over Terri Schiavo, including more than 150 original stories and columns.

But the Sun reported that Keith McBain, an official for Fraser Health, earlier confirmed workers have a duty to provide the necessities of life, such as food and fluids, to patients.

The caregivers explain that patients can refuse a feeding tube, which would be considered an extraordinary procedure, but spoon feeding its not in the same category. And they point at that the elderly woman, when workers feed her, willingly eats.

But the report said Bentley, before she got ill, told others she had seen the ravages of Alzheimer’s, and “she wished to be allowed to die if she reached such a state.”

Margaret Bentley's living will, signed in 1991

The legal claim seeks a ruling that “feeding is akin to battery and that the facility is violating her rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” the Sun reported.

But there also are arguments on behalf of continued feeding.

“The risk of feeding her is minimal whereas the risk of not doing so means that death will be imminent. This death would be viewed as premature and so would constitute harm to Mrs. Bentley,” said Katherine Duthie, who was hired by Fraser Health to do an independent ethics consultation late last year.

At the Leader Post, a report said Bentley has been institutionalized since 2005 and doctors have described her as being in a “vegetative” state since 2010.

The story of Terri Schiavo captured the nation. Arguments over her life went to the highest levels of the U.S. court system and through the halls of the legislature.

Since her death, triggered by a court ruling that a nursing home follow her husband’s instructions to prevent her from eating or drinking, Schiavo’s brother, Bobby Schindler, has worked with a foundation bearing his sister’s name.

The Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network has worked to intervene in other cases in which  patients have been described as “vegetative.”

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