In Defence of Consent and Capacity Boards for End-of-Life Care

Jocelyn Downie, Michael Hadskis


In Cuthbertson v. Rasouli, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) found that, in Ontario, it is the Consent and Capacity Board (CCB) and not the courts per se who will resolve conflicts between substitute decision-makers (SDMs) and health practitioners regarding the withdrawal of lifesustaining treatment from incapable patients. This finding was based on the SCC’s interpretation of the Ontario Health Care Consent Act (HCCA). Hawryluck et al. express concern about the SCC’s determination that the CCB is charged with resolving such conflicts since, in their view, this body is ill-equipped to fulfill this role. Instead, they take the position that these disputes should be adjudicated by the courts. We disagree with this position and, for the reasons set out in this editorial, take the position that provincial and territorial legislators across the country should follow the lead of the Ontario legislature, revise their health care consent legislation to clarify the law with respect to the unilateral withholding and withdrawal of potentially life-sustaining treatment, and establish open and transparent consent and capacity tribunals to deal with irreconcilable conflicts in this context.


SCC Cases; Health Law; Legislation

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