Portland, Ore., Feb 13, 2017 / 14:56 pm America/Denver (CNA).
An Oregon bill on advanced medical directive rules could allow patients who suffer from dementia or mental illness to be starved or dehydrated, opponents warned.
“These are patients who are awake, can chew and swallow and want to eat, even though in some cases they may need help in delivering food to their mouths,” Gayle Atteberry of Oregon Right to Life said Jan. 31. “Current safeguards in Oregon’s law protect these patients from this type of cruelty. This bill take away these safeguards.”
The legislation, S.B. 494, would create an appointed committee empowered to make changes to the advance medical directive governing end-of-life decisions.
According to Oregon Right to Life, the bill was drafted in response to the case of Ashland, Ore. resident Nora Harris, who suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She lost the ability to communicate and the fine motor skills needed to feed herself. She would eat and drink only with assisted spoon feeding.
Harris’ husband had filed a suit to stop the spoon feeding but lost his case in July 2016. Harris herself was represented by a court-appointed attorney, who said that that refusing to help Harris eat would be against state law. The law and Harris’ advance directive authorized only the withdrawal of artificial means of hydration and nutrition. Jackson County Circuit Judge Patricia Crain agreed, the Medford Mail-Tribune reports.