Directives from Supreme Court must be enforced

This article was published by Advocate Daily on March 31, 2015.

Hugh Scher

Hugh Scher

Many Canadians do not recognize the full extent to which existing rules around end-of-life decision-making are not serving as appropriate barriers to inappropriate conduct, says Toronto health and human rights lawyer Hugh Scher.

Concerning cases around end-of-life care decisions continue to crop up across Canada, says Scher, noting it is unclear whether directives from prior court rulings are being respected and enforced.

In one recent case, a Toronto physician and hospital were sued by a family who alleged a “do not resuscitate” (DNR) order was unilaterally placed on an elderly patient at Toronto East General Hospital against their wishes, reports the Toronto Star.

The Star reports the statement of claim, which seeks $1.2 million in damages for four of Canh Luong’s family members, alleges Dr. Alvin Chang and Toronto East General committed “wrongful death, abuse of power, negligence and breach of fiduciary duties.”

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Clear rules and consequences needed around end-of-life care

This article was published by Advocate Daily on March 30, 2015.

Hugh Scher

Hugh Scher

Top British Columbia courts have made it clear that oral nutrition should not be considered health care or medical treatment and instead be seen as basic personal care and support. But, how the directive will be applied and enforced across Canada remains to be seen, says Toronto health and human rights lawyer Hugh Scher.

In Bentley v. Maplewood Seniors Care Society 2015 BCCA 91, the British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed a request from the family of an 83-year-old woman that their mother no longer be given nourishment or liquids by staff members at the nursing home where she resides.

Justice Mary Newbury agreed with a lower court judge, ruling that the woman, who has advanced Alzheimer’s disease, is exercising her consent when she opens her mouth to accept food and water, despite her family’s position that it was her wish while she was mentally capable that she not be fed in her current condition.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition – BC, represented by Scher and Geoff Cowper QC, were intervenors in the case at trial and on appeal.

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Canadian Bar Association (CBA) resolution should not wade into Rasouli territory

Hugh Scher

Hugh Scher

This article was published by Advocate Daily on February 20.

By Hugh Scher

A resolution on end-of-life decision-making to be considered by the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) is poised to help lawyers, but a Supreme Court ruling addressing doctors’ roles in these choices should be kept in mind during the debate, says Toronto human rights and constitutional lawyer Hugh Scher.

The CBA is set to consider the resolution, titled Clarifying Law About End of Life Decision-Making, at its mid-winter meeting Feb. 21 and 22 in Ottawa.

As counsel to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, which has intervened in several high-profile end-of-life cases, including Cuthbertson v. Rasouli, 2013 SCC 53, [2013] 3 S.C.R. 341 and Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5, Scher is no stranger to the controversial conversation around end-of-life decision-making or assisted suicide.

“We think this is an appropriate, helpful and positive contribution, but care must be taken to ensure it doesn’t extend into other unclear domains such as euthanasia and assisted suicide or unilateral authority of doctors, which has already been dealt with by the highest court,” says Scher.

In Rasouli, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal that would have permitted doctors to end life support for a disabled man without the consent of his family or a substitute decision maker.

The decision said under Ontario's Health Care Consent Act, a plan of treatment includes the withholding and withdrawal of treatment and cannot be unilaterally withdrawn by doctors without consent.

Toronto hospital illegally imposed ‘do-not-resuscitate’ order against wishes of dying man’s family: medical board

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Supreme Court of Canada.jpg


In a rare display of disagreement, the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board rejected a decision by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons and provided some Justice for the family of Douglas DeGuerre, who died on September 22, 2008, after doctors at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto unilaterally imposed a do not resuscitate order against the wishes of DeGuerre and his family.

The Appeal and Review Board decided that:

Doctors at a major Toronto hospital violated the law by unilaterally imposing a do-not-resuscitate order on Douglas DeGuerre against his family’s wishes.

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