Legal Issues With End Of Life Care
When a loved one is critically ill and likely to pass away, many of us struggle with our emotions and have difficulty making decisions. For that reason, making decisions about treatment in an end-of-life situation is often particularly difficult. As personal injury lawyers, we are frequently asked about the law in Ontario as it relates to end of life care.
In Ontario, doctors must respect the wishes of a patient who is capable. This includes wishes not to receive a particular procedure or treatment. The Canadian Medical Protective Association confirms on its website, that treatment decisions in Ontario must be based on the patient’s known wishes, their best interests, or both. This applies to do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders. Doctors considering a DNR order should discuss the implications with the patient or the patient’s substitute decision-maker if the patient is not capable of making their own health care decisions. That discussion should be captured in the patient’s medical records.
In June 2016, amendments were made to the Criminal Code of Canada to allow medical assistance in dying as long as certain conditions are met. Those conditions include that the person must be at least 18 years of age, capable of making decisions about their health and have a grievous and irremediable medical condition in which their natural death has become reasonably foreseeable. Other legal tests must also be met before medically assisted dying can be pursued. Anyone considering this option should obtain extensive and specialized legal advice before approaching their doctor.
It is important that people turn their minds to end of life care before the situation arises. Obtaining independent legal advice and having a properly drafted living will or advance directive will help doctors and your loved ones know what your wishes are should you ever find yourself in a critically ill state.
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