Monday, February 3, 2014

BC court rules normal feeding is basic personal care.

The BC Supreme Court rendered a significant decision in favour of protecting vulnerable people at risk of significant abuse by way of the withholding normal feeding of fluids and food in the case Bentley v Maplewood Seniors Care Society.

Basic personal care
There has been some confusion about the Bentley "feeding" case. Mrs Bentley is being fed by spoon. She does not require a feeding tube. She effectively swallows her food.

Mrs. Bentley is living at the Maplewood Seniors Care home. Care-givers testified that she shows preferences to certain food and she prefers to eat her dessert.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) intervened in the Bentley case. We are pleased with this clear and well thought out decision. 

EPC argued that a world-wide consensus recognizes that fluids and food received orally does not constitute medical treatment but rather basic personal care. The court endorsed our submission.

The court clearly decided that normal feeding by spoon and cup is not healthcare but is rather basic personal care under the BC Health Care Consent law.

The court reviewed the regime of consent requirements and advance directives and determined that no such directive was applicable in the circumstances of this case. The court further decided that the withholding of fluids and food in these circumstances would represent neglect that is prohibited by law.

The court concludes as follows:

1. Mrs. Bentley is capable of making the decision to accept oral nutrition and hydration and is providing consent through her behavior when she accepts nourishment and liquids;
2. The assistance with feeding that she is currently receiving must continue;
3. The provision of oral nutrition and hydration by prompting with a glass or spoon is a form of personal care, not health care within the meaning of the HCCCFA Act;
4. Neither the 1991 Statement of Wishes nor the Second Statement of Wishes constitute a valid representation agreement or advance directive;
5. Even if Mrs. Bentley was found incapable of making the decision to accept oral nutrition and hydration, I am not satisfied that the British Columbia legislature intended to allow reference to previously expressed wishes or substitute decision makers to be relied on to refuse basic personal care that is necessary to preserve life;
6. Withdrawing oral nutrition and hydration for an adult that is not capable of making that decision would constitute neglect within the meaning of the Adult Guardianship Act.
For more information contact:
Hugh Scher, (Toronto) EPC Legal Counsel: (416) 816-6115 –
Dr Will Johnston, (Vancouver) EPC-BC Chair: (604) 220-2042 –
Alex Schadenberg, (London) EPC Executive Director: (519) 851-1434 –

Links to more information:
BC court decision in the Bentley feeding case.
Spoon feeding is basic care.
If spoon feeding is no longer a right, I will be afraid for my life.


Anonymous said...

Why have you not published the actual court ruling so we can read it for ourselves?

Why haven't you published any media stories about this decision?

Or have no media outlets chosen to publish the story?

anna said...

I think that not feeding a person falls under the Criminal Code in the section that while in your guardianship you fail to provide the necessaries opf life, not as neglect but as homocide.
Diana Ford