Two Very Encouraging Court Decisions about End of Life Care



October 18, 2013

Today the Supreme Court of Canada released their decision in the Rasoulie case about end-of-life care. They ruled that physicians are required to get consent from a patient or their substiute (if they are unable to make a decision) before they may remove life support. 

Last week the BC Court of Appeal reversed the BC Supreme Court ruling which had declared that our euthanasia laws were unconstitutional. Combined, these two cases are a much needed encouragement in the face of growing pressure from provincial governments and activist organizations to promote euthanasia and assisted suicide. ARPA tips its hat to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition for their exemplarly leadersship on both cases. They are still looking for funds to cover their legal expenses.


The following press release comes from the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition:

The Rasouli family and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) have won a precedent setting decision at the Supreme Court of Canada in the case: Cutherbertson V Rasouli.

Rasouli family with lawyers
at Supreme Court last year.

EPC applauds the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada who upheld the unanimous decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal requiring that doctors obtain consent from patients or substitute decision-makers before withdrawing life-sustaining treatment where such a decision is anticipated to result in the death of the patient.

EPC intervened in the Rasouli case to support the need for oversight of doctors in addressing life and death decisions. 

The Supreme Court of Canada maintained that doctors must raise any objections or concerns they may have about consent to treatment before the Consent and Capacity Board who have the jurisdiction to address any challenges to that consent made by a doctor.

Hugh Scher

Hugh Scher, the lawyer who represented EPC at the Supreme Court of Canada stated:

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has recognized the need for oversight of doctors relative to treatment decisions at the end of life. The Court decision ensures that patient values, beliefs and best interests are given prominence, in conjunction with the clinical considerations of doctors”

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the EPC stated:

“There is a real concern about the impact of accuracy of diagnosis and the critical role of patient autonomy in the making of treatment decisions. 


EPC is pleased that the Supreme Court of Canada maintained that doctors are not the arbiters of life and death.”

The Rasouli case concerned Hassan Rasouli who underwent surgery on October 7, 2010 at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre for a benign brain tumour. He experienced a bacterial meningitis infection that caused him significant cognitive damage.

Hassan Rasouli with family

On October 16, Mr Rasouli was placed on a ventilator and a tube was inserted to provide him hydration and nutrition.His doctors, Cutherbertson and Rubenfeld, determined that Mr. Rasouli was in PVS and decided to withdraw the ventilator, but his wife, Parichehr Salasel, who is also a physician, refused to give consent to the withdrawal of the ventilator.

The Rasouli family insisted that he was not PVS and in fact he was responding. The family was later proven to be correct and his medical condition was upgraded..

The Rasouli family applied to the Superior Court of Justice to obtain an injunction to prevent the doctors at Sunnybrook hospital from unilaterally withdrawing the ventilator.The case was heard over three days in February and March (2011) and the decision by Justice Himel was released on March 9, 2011.Justice Himel decided that the Rasouli family did not need an injunction because the doctors are required to obtain consent before withdrawing medical treatment, which in this case was the ventilator.The doctors appealed the decision of Justice Himel to the Court of Appeal for Ontario.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario unanimously decided that doctors did not have the unilateral right to withdraw life-sustaining treatment, they upheld the role of the Consent and Capacity Board and stated that doctors continue to have the right to seek consent from the Consent and Capacity Board when consent is refused by the person or the attorney for personal care.

The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal for Ontario

For further information, please contact:




Hugh Scher, (TorontoEPC Legal Counsel: (416) 816-6115 / [email protected]


Alex Schadenberg, (LondonEPC Executive Director: (519) 851-1434 / [email protected]




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