Oregon Bill Legalizes Starving Dementia Patients

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  April 28, 2017   

Allows natural feeding to be withheld from conscious patients

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PORTLAND, Ore. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A bill in Oregon's senate is crafted to allow mentally ill patients to be starved to death.

Oregon law mandates that healthcare providers give food and water to all conscious patients, who can receive it naturally such as by spoon feeding. SB 494, which is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee, would remove this mandate for patients suffering from dementia and other mental illnesses. It does so by removing current safeguards that prohibit surrogates from withholding ordinary food and water from conscious patients with conditions that don’t allow them to make decisions about their own care.

Gayle Atteberry, executive director of Oregon Right to Life, remarked, "Nursing homes and other organizations dedicated to protecting vulnerable patients work hard to make sure patients receive the food and water they need. Senate Bill 494, pushed hard by the insurance lobby, would take patient care a step backwards and decimate patient rights."


A recent case leading up to this legislation highlights the potential danger of the measure once passed. Bill Harris is a resident of Oregon and legal guardian of his wife Nora Harris. Nora suffers from Alzheimer's Disease and must be fed with a spoon. Bill Harris petitioned the court to issue an order directing the nursing home that's caring for his wife to stop feeding her altogether.

Oregon law, however, requires that conscious patients be given food and water if it can be administered naturally to the patient and consumed by ordinary eating and drinking. Because of this law, the court refused to honor the request by Bill Harris.

SB 494 would remove this safeguard and allow for the starvation and dehydration of such patients at the request of a legal guardian or by third parties if guardianship was lacking. The law would also appoint a committee of unelected officials and give them the power to make future changes to advanced medical directives without oversight or approval by the Oregon Legislature. Many fear this provision would result in a rapid erosion of patients' rights under the strong lobby of insurance companies.

Oregon already allows IVs and feeding tubes to be withdrawn from otherwise viable patients at the request of guardians and third parties. This causes horrible death by dehydration over a matter of days. SB 494 could extend that gruesome prerogative to include cases of "spoon feeding" of conscious patients, who are mentally incompetent.

Terri Schiavo made headlines when her feeding tube was removed at the request of her husband. This caused Schiavo to die a slow and agonizing death over the course of 13 days. Her brother, Bobby Schindler gave this account of her last days:

My sister's lips were horribly cracked to the point they were blistering. Her skin became jaundiced with areas that turned different shades of blue. Terri's breathing became rapid and uncontrollable. Her moaning, at times, was raucous, which indicated to us the insufferable pain she was experiencing. Terri's face became skeletal, with blood pooling in her deeply sunken eyes and her teeth protruding forward. What will be forever seared in my memory is the look of utter horror on my sister's face when my family visited her just after she died.

Oregon Right to Life is providing this link for Oregon residents to contact their state senator and ask them to stop SB 494 from becoming law. Catholics are asked to contact the archdiocese of Portland and encourage Abp. Alexander Sample to continue fighting against this bill.

 

 

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