Are doctors obligated to do what patients request?

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  • Dr Kobus de Jager says:

    The question did not directly address end of life care, but, is there a right to continued end of life care? Even if all concerned physicians are not in agreement and do not believe it to be in the patient’s best interest? Yes. Simon Golobchuck’s problems began in 2003 after a closed head injury, failed brain surgery, pneumonia and pulmonary hypertension landed him in the ICU of the Salvation Army Grace Hospital in Winnipeg. Although all the physicians concerned gave up hope and wanted to discontinue treatment, his wife was successful in getting an injunction against his doctors, thereby forcing them to provide continued care. In 2011 Hasan Rasouli found himself at the center of a similar legal debate. Initially diagnosed to be in a permanent vegetative state – later changed to minimal conscious state – his wife Parichehr Salasel disagreed with their diagnosis and convinced the Ontario Appeals Court (confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2013) to provide for ongoing care, despite medical opinion that ongoing care was not in his best interests.

    • Paul Taylor says:

      You pose an interesting question. But I think the circumstances are so different that the same answer does not apply. One case is about starting treatment and the other is about stopping treatment.
      In the Rasouli case (stopping treatment), the Supreme Court ruled that disputes between physicians and families should be adjudicated by Ontario’s Consent and Capacity Board.

      It’s not for me to predict what the Supreme Court would rule in a case involving the start of treatment. But until such a case goes to the Supreme Court, the main option open to a patient would be seeking a second opinion from other physician.


Paul Taylor


Paul Taylor is a health journalist and former Patient Navigation Advisor at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, where he provided advice and answered questions from patients and their families. Paul will continue to write occasional columns for Healthy Debate.

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