OTTAWA October 18, 2013 — The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that doctors cannot unilaterally choose to end life support services for Hassan Rasouli, an Ontario man who has been comatose since 2010.

In a 5-2 decision, justices for Canada’s highest court ruled doctors must first obtain consent from the man’s family, or, failing that, apply for permission from Ontario’s Consent and Capacity Board, a quasi-judicial body that addresses matters of consent under Ontario’s Health Care Consent Act.

The court stressed, however, that its ruling applied only to cases in Ontario, and did not address the broader ethical question of who has the final say — doctors or family — in end-of-life care for incapacitated people. In effect, it said that Ontario has a board set up for determining such matters, and that Rasouli’s case should have been brought before it.

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