Euthanasia laws have a way of expanding. Once a society accepts the concept that sick people should be “put out of their misery,” the benefit can be applied ever more broadly–to those who are not terminally ill, just depressed; to people who cannot give consent; to the mentally handicapped; to children. What begins as a humane-sounding way to end heart-breaking suffering, to be used only in rare and carefully defined cases, turns into something ever-more brutal.
Oregon legalized assisted suicide in 1997. A new law would allow caregivers to deny food to those who have written an advance-care directive allowing for non-treatment. Not just intravenous nutrition, but actual eating and drinking, even if the patient is hungry and wants to eat.
From Ian Tuttle, Oregon Assisted-Death Law: Subtle Savagery | National Review:
Savagery can be subtle.
Oregon, which in 1997 became the first state in the U.S. to legalize assisted suicide, is considering tweaking the laws surrounding advance directives, the legal documents by means of which a person can dictate ahead of time his desires for end-of-life care. The innocuous-seeming changes that Senate Bill 494 proposes would permit the state to starve certain patients to death.
Under current state law, “artificially administered nutrition and hydration” — intravenous feeding by tubes — does not include food administered normally: “by cup, hand, bottle, drinking straw or eating utensil.” The latter category, unlike the former, is considered part of the basic provision of care required for the sick, and required by law as long as the patient is mentally incompetent to say otherwise.
In 2016, Bill Harris of Ashland, Ore., asked a state court to order a nursing facility to stop providing food and water to his wife, Nora, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Nora could no longer communicate and had lost use of her fine-motor skills, making it impossible for her to use utensils, so the facility had begun spoon-feeding her. According to the nursing facility, Nora continued to choose whether she wanted to eat or not, and the facility never coerced her. Nonetheless, her husband maintained that when she stated in her advance directive that she did not want artificial nutrition, she intended all forms of feeding.
The courts decided against Bill Harris, but S.B. 494, introduced last month and currently under consideration in committee, would reshape the law to suit him. The bill removes the statutory definition of “tube feeding” and “life support,” and replaces the word “desires” with “preferences.” To the requirement in its advance-directive forms that “my healthcare representative must follow my instructions,” the bill adds: “to the extent appropriate.” It also removes the statutory definition of “health care instruction.”