Mar. 4, 2019

Oregon Bill SB 494

As a nurse who has worked geriatrics for about 20 years and being the charge nurse over the floor, this new bill (SB 494) for Oregon disturbs me greatly. The bill opens by stating it is “updating a law,” but that is not true. When you read it, you see it’s changing the law.

This bill allows people to starve and dehydrate a person with Dementia-Alzheimer’s. Their theory is the patient is so demented that it won’t realize it (or remember) anyway.

As we inch closer to (natural) death, our bodies hold on to three specific things. We lose these things in specific order as well, an order that does not ever waver.

The first thing we lose is our sexual desires. That usually happens months before death. Many assume it’s years, but that is false. I’ve seen (and heard from colleagues) about patients with Alzheimer’s and Dementia being very sexual. There’s even a law that says we (the staff) are not allowed to interrupt the activity if we walk in on them.

We had an incidence once where a male patient was found in bed with the woman in the next room. They were going at it and, suffice to say, she wasn’t complaining, either. After all, the staff had watched them flirt with each other for weeks. In all fairness, we didn’t think either of them could remember what to do because they both had Alzheimer’s Disease.

When his son found out, he lost his mind and started yelling at us, “He’s married! He can’t do that! I’m going to sue this place!”

Long story short, the son couldn’t sue even though his father had Alzheimer’s and was under our care. His dad maintained his rights to cheat on his wife; demented or not.

The second thing the patient will lose is their hunger and that’s usually within days of death. They no longer desire food and will quit eating and drinking all together. Most families become very upset when their Mom or Dad stops eating. They’ll keep trying to feed or give them something to drink in attempts to prevent starvation. The staff sees it as another sign of impending death.

The last thing that goes is hearing. Even while giving postmortem care, we are not to speak about the patients or their family as their hearing is the very last thing to go.

There have been countless of cases where the patient, thought to be dead, overheard a conversation. Once resuscitated, they were able to repeat what they heard word-for-word. In fact, my own father being one of those patients.

He overheard my mother, who was standing in the hallway, tell the doctor she was getting ready to divorce him. To the day he died (for good), he swore that was the reason he came back and then stayed married to her for another five years.

This new bill gives me serious concerns because even though they’re demented, that does not mean they are ready to lay down the rosaries. Starving a patient to death is one of the cruelest forms of punishment and torture. When I read the SB 494 Bill for Oregon, I immediately thought of Adolph Hitler.

If this bill passes, it will open the door for other states to follow suit. It’s cruel and inhumane which violates our 4th Amendment Right that protects us from such behaviors. As a collective society, we need to be careful about who we put into power that makes these unforgivable laws.