Court-ordered death


In October 2010, Hassan Rasouli, a mechanical engineer living in Toronto, fell into a coma after contracting bacterial meningitis during surgery to remove a brain tumour. His doctors came to the conclusion that he was in a persistent vegetative state, and recommended ending ventilation and removing his feeding tube, which would almost certainly lead to his immediate death. His family disagreed, believing that there was a possibility that he could recover. Both parties refused to budge, leading to a court case that could drastically change the rules in Ontario regarding treatment of terminally ill patients.

The doctors at Sunnybrook Hospital argued that they should have the right to unilaterally decide whether life support measures are appropriate, and should be able to stop such measures if there is no chance of recovery. The family argued that, ultimately, this is the decision of the family member (or of the person him- or herself, if there is a Power of Attorney document that states what the person’s wishes are). As the law stands now, if doctors or family members are unhappy with the treatment options, they can go to the Consent and Capacity Board to appeal the decision. The doctors in this case are trying to bypass the CCB.

The case went to trial in April, where Justice Susan Himel ruled that removing a patient from life support is a treatment requiring consent under the Health Care Consent Act, which meant that the doctors were required to obtain consent from the patient or substitute decision maker. The doctors appealed, and the appeal was heard at the end of May. The Court of Appeal has not yet released their decision.

You can read the Superior Court decision here and an article about the case here.