STOP! PUT DOWN THE FORK!
No, this isn’t a post about dieting. Ask yourself: If you have late-stage dementia, do you want someone to feed you and give you water? Are you comfortable making that decision now, while you are healthy? What if a loved one made the decision that they wanted to not be given food or water? These are some intense questions that are going to be asked in New York in the very near future after the production of a new advance directive.
An advance directive is a document that a person signs today, with the intent that the wishes in the document are followed upon their incapacity. In Wisconsin, it is common (and recommended) to do advance directives for life-support and feeding tubes. This New York advanced directive takes the idea further and allows someone to say: “I do NOT want to be fed by hand even if I appear to cooperate in being fed by opening my mouth.”
Certainly, there is a very good argument to be made that a person ought to be able to decide what happens to them, now and in the future. The other side of the coin is that planning for something as serious as what amounts to suicide by starvation, ought to be made while the person is hungry. The problem is, for the advance directive to be activated, the person needs to be incapable of making the decision.
Presently, this type of advance directive would not be allowed in Wisconsin (and many other states). Wisconsin Statute Section 154.03(1), which deals with advanced directives specifically states, in relevant part: “A declarant may not authorize the withholding or withdrawal of nutrition or hydration that is administered or otherwise received by the declarant through means other than a feeding tube unless the declarant's attending physician advises that, in his or her professional judgment, the administration is medically contraindicated.” The Power of Attorney for Health Care statute in Wisconsin contains similar prohibitions. Even though Wisconsin doesn’t give the power to individuals to prevent someone from feeding them, it certainly could occur in the future. It’s an interesting thought, nonetheless.