Aging with grace and confidence would, for most people, be facilitated by the assurance that life would conclude with dignity. Unfortunately, such assurance is not available, especially if diminished competence does not allow the expression of a refusal to the continued administration of medical treatment. Health care professionals maintaining mentally incompetent patients on life supports should be aware of the legal risks of terminating treatment without valid informed consent. Yet who can give such consent? Does our law provide any guidance?
This paper will examine the Canadian legal realities of obtaining valid informed consent to cessation of medical treatment for the terminally or chronically ill. References will be made to The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the leading American jurisprudence.