Pre-Planned Starvation and Advanced Dementia — Is There a Choice?


  • Colleen Davis Griffith University


Canadian Margot Bentley’s thoughts on Alzheimer’s disease were quite clear. In a written statement of her wishes, she said, ‘I want it to be known that I fear degradation and indignity far more than death.’ She repeatedly made her wishes known to her family, verbally and in two written documents. However, judges refused to enforce Mrs Bentley’s directive that food and drink be withheld when the disease progressed to the point that she no longer recognised her family. The reasons for the court’s decision are relevant to Australians who want to pre-plan a death from starvation, in the event that they develop Alzheimer’s and the disease progresses to a pre-determined stage. This paper considers the legislative scheme in Queensland for health care decision-making for a person without capacity and concludes that the outcome in a case with facts similar to Mrs Bentley’s would probably be the same.


A Articles/Books/Reports

Hammond, Katherine, 'Kept Alive — The Enduring Tragedy of Margot Bentley' (2016) 6(2) Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics 80

Meisel, Alan, and Kathy Cerminara, The Right to Die, The Law of End-of-Life Decisionmaking (Aspen Publishers, 2017)

Fewing, Ross, Timothy W Kirk and Alan Meisel, ‘A Fading Decision’ (2014) 44(3) Hastings Centre Report 16

B Cases

Bentley v Maplewood Seniors Care Society 2014 BCSC 165 (British Columbia Supreme Court)

Bentley v Maplewood Seniors Care (2015) BCCA 91 (British Columbia Court of Appeal)

Brightwater Care Group Inc v Rossiter [2009] WASC 229

Carter v Canada (Attorney General) [2015] 1 SCR 331

H Ltd v J [2010] SASC 176

Manoir de la Pointe Bleue (1978) Inc c Corbeil, 1992, CarswellQue 1623 (CS) (Quebec Supreme Court)

Re Nora Harris (Oregon, Jackson City Circuit Court No 13-107-G6, 13 July 2016)

C Legislation

Representation Agreement Act 1996 (RSBC)

Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 (Qld)

Health Care (Consent) and Care Facility (Admission) Act 1996 (RSBC)

Powers of Attorney Act 1998 (Qld)

D Other

Aleccia, JoNel ‘Despite Advance Directive, Dementia Patient Denied Her Last Wish, Says Spouse’, USA Today (online), 21 August 2017 <>

Aleccia, JoNel, ‘Should Patients with Dementia Be Able to Decline Spoon-Feeding?’ National Public Radio (online), 3 November 2017 <>

Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s and Dementia in Australia (2017) <>

Alzheimer's Association, Assisted Oral Feeding and Tube Feeding (2015) <>

Dementia Australia, What is Dementia? <>

‘Dementia’ on Mayo Clinic (2 August 2017) <>

Schappi, John, Advance Directives to Hasten Death in the Event of Dementia, <>