Monday, July 8, 2013

Dying with dignity: Dementia Patient is Being Abused by Care Facility!

Dying With Dignity Canada

In 1991 Margot Bentley wrote a living will.  She indicated clearly that she wanted "no nourishment or liquids" if there was "no reasonable expectation of her recovery from extreme physical or mental disability". Margot also spoke and wrote about her fearing degradation and indignity far more than death.  Her doctor has known the family for about 35 years and has been Margot's GP for the past 2 years; he is on record as supporting her decision. Her family acknowledges her wishes and is trying to have them respected.

Unfortunately, what Margot feared has now come to pass.  In 1999 Margot was diagnosed with dementia and is now in an advanced state of extreme disability, yet despite everything she wrote and spoke about when she was still competent, staff at the Maplewood Care Facility in Abbotsford are prodding her mouth with a spoon and feeding her pureed foods in a bid to keep her alive.  It seems that her wishes don't matter at all.

So how come, with all her foresight and pre-planning for a good death, Margot's last days (months, years!) are going so horribly wrong? Her distressed family were initially assured that Margot’s wishes would be respected, but the care facility then revoked that decision and the Fraser Health Authority  Ethics Committee and Adult Abuse and Neglect became involved.

And now The Fraser Valley Health Authority is protesting that Margot's wishes aren't documented on the current legal form. This is not a valid objection: the BC Ministry of Health has stated “A living will made before September 1, 2011 that is not deemed to be an Advance Directive, may be relied upon by your representative or temporary substitute decision maker as an expression of your instructions, if a health care treatment needs to be made on your behalf”.

Furthermore, Dr. Doris Barwitch a spokesperson for the Fraser Valley Health Authority in conversation with Pete McMartin of the Vancouver Sun stated "
the current legal framework is very clear. Not providing the necessities of life is a contravention of the Criminal Code ... which stipulates that we are required to do so."

Care facilities and other institutions do have the responsibility to provide the necessities of life. But if someone chooses not to nourish themselves, that is their own decision. Nourishment is designated a medical treatment, and under the provincial Health Care Consent and Facilities Admissions Act, we have the right to refuse treatment.

According to Prof. Rob Gordon, director of Simon Fraser University's school of criminology and distinguished fellow of the Canadian Centre for Elder Law at UBC- and one of the authors of that Act- the food being inflicted on Margot is in clear violation of the Act.

In Rob Gordon's words (according to the Vancouver Sun's McMartin): Criminal Code Section 215, "
is intended to deal with neglect. It should be abundantly clear to anybody working in the health care system that the legislation to follow is the provincial legislation dealing with consent issues. (Section) 215 (of the Criminal code) simply does not override those basic provincial requirements. And any attempt to do that is imaginative at best."

Margot Bentley is indeed suffering abuse. But not at the hands of her loving family.

Please do at least one of the following:
  • Write, call or email the Honorable Terry Lake, BC's Minister of Health (contact information), and let him know that it's time the Fraser Valley Health Authority started obeying the law.
  • Pass this message on.  Ask others to add their voice for Margot's choice.
  • Join odonate to Dying With Dignity.  Help us fight for Margot Bentley and the many other Canadians who face the prospect of an unbearable death.

Dying With Dignity is a registered charity with over 30 years of experience working to improve quality of dying and expand end-of-life choices.  Dying With Dignity provides information about the importance of advance care planning, educates individuals about their rights as patients and advocates for individuals whose rights are being abused. 

Wanda Morris

Executive Director |  Dying With Dignity Canada

Toronto:  1-800-495-6156 ext. 24

Vancouver: 604-985-8282

No comments: