Consent to treatment case heard at Supreme Court of Canada

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the “Rasouli” consent to treatment case on Monday December 10, 2012. 

The doctors in the case asked the court to rule that they are not required to get consent from a patient or substitute decision-maker to withdraw or withhold treatment, including life support.  Mr. Rasouli’s wife is his substitute decision-maker.  She and his family take the position that her consent is needed to withdraw treatment.

The Ontario Court of Appeal found that consent is required for the withdrawal or withholding of treatment because the withdrawal of life support is inseparable from palliative care, for which consent is required.  The doctors brought the appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

As we reported in our HALCO news Spring 2012 edition (page 5), HALCO and the Mental Health Legal Committee were granted intervener status jointly in the case.  Ryan Peck (HALCO executive director/lawyer), Amy Wah (HALCO staff lawyer), and Marshall Swadron (lawyer at Swadron Associates) addressed treatment decision-making outside of end-of-life decisions before the Court at the hearing.  Mercedes Perez from Swadron Associates was also co-counsel in this joint intervention. Bernadette Maheandiran, Karen Steward and Kelly Sinclair from Swadron Associates provided assistance on the case as well.

The Supreme Court’s decision will have profound implications for all medical treatment, not only treatment at the end of life. It is imperative to maintain the principle of no treatment without consent. Doctors should not be allowed to unilaterally make life and death decisions.

Here is a link to our Intervener Factum (legal arguments) on our website:

The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly and ARCH Disability Law Centre, which are specialty legal clinics like HALCO, were among the other interveners in the matter. 

You can find more information in our HALCO news Spring 2012 edition (page 5).


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