L’exigence de maintien de traitement chez le patient à l’inconscience irréversible

Catherine Paschali


As technological progress pushes the boundaries of death, a new ethical and legal debate is emerging. When a patient is in a vegetative state and all hope of rehabilitation is gone, the medical community proposes withdrawing life-sustaining treatment and withholding resuscitation. However, some families, in most cases religious, oppose withdrawing treatment and request that it be maintained. In light of recent scientific advances allowing unprecedented access to the minds of apparently unconscious patients, the Canadian legal landscape will be explored. First, the author examines how irreversible unconsciousness may justify a doctor’s refusal to pursue life-sustaining treatment, Secondly, she examines the fundamental rights invoked by the relatives to support their requests for life-sustaining treatment. Lastly, she evaluates proposed solutions aimed at clarifying who has the power to decide or to initiate a dispute resolution process. In the background to this debate, science continues to advance, with the hope of improving respect for the rights of apparently unconscious patients in the future.

Download Article