Food and Fluids

See also: VSED (Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking)

Questions and Answers about “Artificial Feeding” The ethical implications of withholding or withdrawing food and fluids.

Symptoms of Dehydration If all food and fluids are removed from a person, death by dehydration will occur.

Cases: Wendland (CA)   Schiavo (FL)  Martin (MI)


“The Ethics of Food and Drink: Starvation is not mercy”
(Weekly Standard — July 28, 2014)
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 or 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.

“Family appeals court ruling that refused to let Margot Bentley die”
(Vancouver Sun — April 22, 2014)
The family of Margot Bentley, a former nurse with Alzheimer’s, is appealing the B.C. Supreme Court ruling that allowed her Abbotsford nursing home to continue spoon-feeding her.

“Thousands die of thirst and poor care in NHS”
(Telegraph — UK — April 22, 2014)
[T]he NHS watchdog NICE was forced to issue guidelines on giving patients water after it found that 42,000 deaths a year could be avoided if staff ensured the sick were hydrated.

“Family’s Euthanasia Fight for Natty”
(CBS Local — March 25, 2014)
“We euthanize serial killers, because that’s more humane. But, a 21-month old baby has to starve for almost 9 days in front of her family.”
[Grandfather calls for legalization of euthanasia for children following starvation death of toddler.}

“More than a thousand care home residents die thirsty”
(Telegraph — December 1, 2013)|
Elderly and vulnerable patients were left without enough water despite being under the supervision of trained staff in homes in England and Wales.
More on United Kingdom

“No ‘Spoon Feeding!’ Case to BC Supremes”
(National Review Online — November 21, 2013)
At stake is whether a nursing home can be forced to starve a patient to death by withholding spoon feeding. The patient is voluntarily swallowing. No one is forcing food or water down her throat.

“Nursing Home Won’t Starve Mother — Family Sues”
(National Review — August 8, 2013)
In Canada, a family wants a nursing home to stop spoon feeding their mother because she would not want to be kept alive with Alzheimer’s.

“Patient’s family sues B.C. as nursing home keeps her alive against her wishes”
(Vancouver Sun — August 7, 2013)
The actions of Abbotsford nursing home staff who are spoon-feeding an 82-year-old Alzheimer’s patient — contrary to the wishes she expressed in her living will –constitute battery, a lawsuit by her daughter and husband alleges.
Margot Bentley’s daughter, Katherine Hammond, said she doesn’t visit her mom much anymore.

“Family of B.C. woman ravaged by Alzheimer’s fights to fulfill her right to die with dignity”
(National Post — July 10, 2013)
In 1991, Margot Bentley drafted a detailed “living will.” She wrote that health care workers were to dispense “no nourishment or liquids” if it was clear she had no chance of recovery.”
According to her daughter, Bentley’s regular spoon-feeding should stop.

“Man at center of family’s end-of-life care dispute dies”
(Fox 59 – Indiana — March 20, 2013)
He was taken off a ventilator and his end-of-life directives were followed.  Smith, however, did not die. He began asking for food and water…

“Daughter vows to fight on for her gravely ill Carmel father”
(Indianapolis Star — January 16, 2013)
Susan Rissman vows the the fight to keep her father Paul G. Smith alive is not over — despite a ruling Wednesday….
At the hearing Dr. Anthony Martin admitted he had Rissman removed from the hospital Sunday and barred from returning after learning she allowed Smith to be videotaped asking for food and water.

International promotion of VSED (voluntarily stopping of eating and drinking) moves into high gear:
“How I helped my mum to die”

(Mail Online — August 4, 2011)
They were never — but then Jane agreed to help her ailing mother starve herself to death….”There was no pretending I hadn’t been part of her decision and had arguably even encouraged it. Many experts say that old people often choose to end their lives, or say they don’t want them extended, not because of their own genuine wishes, but to spare their children trouble and expense.”

“Right-to-die patient displays ‘a bit of a smile’ when teased, carer claims”
(Mail Online — July 20, 2011)
Her partner and sister have made an emotional plea to the judge, Mr. Justice Baker, to remove her hydration and feeding tube. But today, her carer told the High Court the woman could display “a bit of a smile” and make different noise when carers joked about men…It is thought to be the first time that a judge has been asked to rule on whether life-supporting treatment should be withdrawn from a person who is “minimally conscious”, one level above a “persistent vegetative state”….Vikram Sachdeva, for the relatives, says M’s family felt that she would not want to live a life “dependent on others.”

“Family fight to end life of brain disease patient: Landmark case affecting thousands with locked in syndrome”
(Mail Online — July 18, 2011)
The 53-year-old — known only as M — has a brain-stem wasting disease and is “minimally conscious.” which means she is able to make some movements or experience some sensations. Relatives, including her mother, say she is often in pain and would be better off dead. They have applied to one of Britain’s most powerful courts for a judge to order the removal of her hydration and nutrition tubes, which will mean she dies of thirst and starvation….If the relatives’ application is successful, it could have implications for the 6,000 Britons who are so incapacitated that they can barely communicate.


SCHIAVO CASE

“Awakenings: The Schiavo case revisited” by Wesley J. Smith
Only months after being nearly dehydrated to death when his feeding tube was removed, Jesse Ramirez walked out of the hospital on his own. (Weekly Standard, 11/5/07)

“The Case of Theresa Schiavo” by Joan Didion
Exceptional, detailed, and lengthy discussion of Terri Schiavo’s life and death.
(The New York Review of Books, Volume 52, Number 10)

“Schiavo marker stirs family hostility”
Michael Schiavo chose to list Feb. 25, 1990 (the date of her collapse) as the date Terri “departed this earth” and inscribed “I kept my promise” on her bronze grave marker.  (USA Today, 6/20/05)

Terri Schiavo died of dehydration on March 31, 2005, thirteen days after her feeding tube was removed.  Her parents, brother and sister were denied access to her bedside at the time of her death.

“Human Non-Person” Terri Schiavo, bioethics and our future. (3/29/05)
Wesley J. Smith discusses Florida bioethicist’s revealing views on severely disabled individuals.

Facts you may not know about Terri Schiavo’s case.

International Task Force amicus curiae brief in Terri Schiavo case.

Discusses biases of “expert” who testifed on behalf of Michael Schiavo.

“Starving for a Fair Diagnosis” (National Review Online, 3/16/05)
“Terri Schiavo is not out of medical options.  But that’s the ‘fact’ her husband wants you to believe.”

“Michael Schiavo tiring of fight.” Latest court ruling may lead Terri Schiavo’s husband/guardian to drop court battle to end her life.  (St. Petersburg Times, 11/2/04)

Transcript of 9/27/04 Larry King Show with Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler.

“Schiavo case to highest court” (St.Petersburg Times, 6/17/04).
Florida Supreme Court will decide fate of “Terri’s Law.”

“The Assault on Terri Schiavo Continues” (Weekly Standard, 4/30/04)

Judge has permitted Michael Schiavo to act as Terri’s guardian without a guardianship plan in effect even though, under Florida law, this means that Michael has no legal authority over her.

“The Rule of Terri’s Case Strikes Again” (National Review Online, 1/30/04)

Terri’s parents are held to the letter of the law; the man who is trying to kill her is given heaping amounts of “judicial discretion.”

“With intent to kill:   The battle over Terri Schiavo’s life continues” (International Task Force Update, Special Edition, 12/29/03)

“Was Terri Schiavo Beaten in 1990?” (Village Voice, 11/14/03)

“In Sickness: The unfettered right to love, honor, and pull the plug” (National Review, 11/13/03)

“A ‘Painless’ Death?” Michael Schiavo insists that dehydration is the most natural way to die.  It’s more like torture. (Weekly Standard, 11/12/03)

“Life Death and Silence” (Weekly Standard, 10/31/03)

“The Interview That Wasn’t” Michael Schiavo went on the Larry King Show last night to tell the world his side of the story. (Weekly Standard, 10/28/03)

Saving Terri Schiavo Florida legislature steps in to save a woman whose husband is trying to kill her.  (10/21/03)

“The fight to save Terri Schiavo’s life”
Background and status of case through 1/31/03 (ITF Update, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2003).

“Judge: Remove woman’s feeding tube.”
Ruling says brain-damaged Terri Schiavo has no hope of recovery.  An appeal is expected. (WorldNetDaily, 11/22/02)

“Emergency motion in right-to-die case” (WorldNetDaily, 11/13/02)
In testimony given during the 2000 trial, Terri’s girfriend and co-worker said she frequently noticed discoloration or bruising on Terri that Terri attributed to her husband ‘pinching her.’”

“Attorney claims a beating may have caused Schiavo’s coma”(St. Petersburg Times, 11/13/02)
Evidence may suggest that Terri Schiavo’s condition was caused in 1990 with a beating that broke several of her bones.

“Should Terri Schiavo’s Feeding Tube Be Removed?” Transcript of CNN’s Burden of Proof (5/3/01).

Official site of Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation


WENDLAND CASE

CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT RULES IN WENDLAND CASE
In a 6-0 opinion, the California Supreme Court has ruled in favor of protecting vulnerable conscious conservatees. The Court ruled that food and water cannot be withdrawn from a conscious disabled conservatee unless there is clear and convincing evidence that withdrawing food and water is what the patient wanted or that doing so would be in the patient’s best interest. The Court found that Rose Wendland (who sought to remove food and fluids from her conscious but severely brain-damaged husband ) had “offered no basis for such a finding other than her own subjective judgment that the conservatee did not enjoy a satisfactory quality of life and legally insufficient evidence to the effect that he would have wished to die.” (August 9, 2001)

Attorneys for Rose Wendland petitioned the Court to reconsider its decision. The Court denied the request on September 28, 2001.

Robert Wendland Dies (July 17, 2001)

“A Life in Limbo” The court battle over Robert Wendland (CNN Burden of Proof transcript 1/15/01)

Seeking the Death of Robert Wendland Appeared originally in Sacramento Bee (11/14/97).

Editor’s Update: Robert Wendland Spared Judge rules that there is not clear and convincing evidence that starving and dehydrating Wendland would be in his best interest. (IAETF Update, Nov.-Dec. 1997)


MARTIN CASE

Mary Martin Continues to Speak Out Mary Martin, who failed in her attempt to have her husband’s food and fluids removed, claims that people like her husband could be the organ donors who are so desperately needed.(6/98)

Background Information on the Michael Martin Case Update articles from 1993-1995 which report on the case of Michael Martin and its outcome at the Michigan Supreme Court.


For an in depth discussion of the transformation of food and fluids into “medical treatment,” see the following sections from the article “Words, Words, Words”:

“The Morphing of ‘Treatment’” The debate about treatment has traveled so far beyond the original meaning of the word that it begs for redefinition in Webster’s.

“Food and Fluids as Medical Treatment” Considerable verbal engineering was required to transform denial of food and fluids into an appealing “removal of treatment.”

“Tube Feeding: Neither New Nor Rare” Tube feeding is neither new, exotic nor rare.

“Lunch Trays Bearing Treatment” Those who advocate removing food and fluids from disabled people, contend that even food taken by mouth is treatment if the person’s diet had to be approved by a physician.

“‘Graceful Death’ by Dehydration” A major medical journal portrayed dehydrating to death as a way for an elderly woman – who had no life threatening condition – to end her life “gracefully.”