Iranian Immigrant’s Family Finds Themselves in the Middle of Canada’s Ongoing Debate of When to Suspend End-of-Life Care

With high hopes of making a new life in Toronto, Iran native Hassan Resouli probably never thought that he would be instrumental in the Supreme Court of Canada’s debate concerning when and under what circumstances a doctor can decide that a life is no longer worth saving. A man in his late 50s, Rasouli visited his doctor complaining of hearing loss and found himself requiring brain surgery, the aftermath of which left him on a ventilator being artificially nourished and at the middle of an ongoing debate about critical end-of-life care.

Was Rasouli’s Meningitis a Case of Medical Malpractice?+

Due to what Rasouli’s family believes to be a failure of appropriate care after his surgery, Rasouli acquired bacterial meningitis and is currently in a coma with no chance of getting better. While some would speculate as to the validity of Rasouli’s meningitis being a case of medical malpractice, others are seeking to change Canadian law with regards to life-saving decisions that Canadian doctors make on a daily basis. A patient at Sunnybrook hospital, Rasouli is just one of many patients and their families who have battled with the hospital over the right for the families to decide whether or not to administer life-saving treatment to a patient who is expected to remain in a vegetative state indefinitely.

At least four families have taken legal action against Sunnybrook, claiming that doctors there have either attempted to discontinue or actually discontinued life-saving treatments to loved ones despite the families’ appeals not to do so. A “modern medicine minefield,” decisions about life and death in cases like Rasouli is an uncomfortable discussion for physicians, judges, and the public. Weighing ethical and religious convictions and the enormous economic toll hospitals incur from maintaining patients like Rasouli, the Supreme Court of Canada is now debating how such situations should be addressed from now on.

Doctors believe that their duty is to make treatment decisions based on their opinion of what is in the patient’s best interests. Their argument is that, “where a treatment offers no medical benefit to a patient, there can be no legal justification for requiring the treatment to be offered to the patient.” Doctors believe that their past medical experience renders them authoritative enough to make end-of-life decisions for their patients, but families disagree. In most instances, when a stalemate occurs the decision to continue or end life support has fallen to the Sunnybrook policy that says a resolution the hospital can make the decision “via consensus,” which in the case of Rasouli was to remove his ventilation.

Filing of a Lawsuit against the Hospital Temporarily Suspended the Removal of Rasaouli’s Ventilator

Rasaouli’s family then filed a lawsuit, which temporarily suspended the removal of the ventilator. After declining to take the case to the Consent and Capacity Board (CCB) tribunal, physicians not only questioned the authority of the board, but promptly took their case to the Court of Appeal. That case was rejected which legally required the doctors to appear before the CCB. Instead of relinquishing the decision to the CCB, the doctors took their case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

In the meantime, Rasouli’s condition has been upgraded to “minimally conscious,” a circumstance that affects the entire premise of the lawsuit and the court’s ruling on the case. Many believe that the Supreme Court will proceed with its ruling due to the high public interest in it. In addition to the grave medical and ethical questions addressed in the Rasouli case, serious economic questions remain.

For Medical Malpractice Legal Assistance, Contact an Experienced Canadian Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you or a loved one has suffered injury due to the failure or negligence of a medical professional, you may be entitled to compensation for those injuries. To best determine if you have a medical malpractice case in Canada, contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer for advice.

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