Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. NEWS BULLETIN file photo (Nanaimo News Bulletin file image)

Supreme Court vindicates B.C. doctor who medicated dying woman against her son’s wishes

Health Professions Review Board’s decision deemed transparent and justifiable

The Supreme Court of B.C. has decided there will be no judicial review of a ruling regarding an end-of-life care case that happened in Nanaimo.

A man calling on a provincial health tribunal to reverse a ruling on a case involving his now-deceased mother had his application for judicial review dismissed by the Supreme Court of B.C. last week.

The case involves Thomas William Sanders’s mother, Arleane, an 80-year-old double amputee who experienced pressure ulcers, wound infections and extreme pain, and doctors including Robin Love, a palliative care physician in Nanaimo, according to court documents.

Arleane was admitted to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital multiple times between November 2014 and March 2015 according to the documents, which state that Love was one of the doctors who provided care to her during her time at NRGH.

Prior to admission to NRGH, Arleane spent months living at Nanaimo Seniors Village, where she required daily dressing changes and “often screamed in pain” and one doctor wrote that staff overmedicated her so that “she would not be a nuisance,” court documents show.

In November 2014, the son had become concerned about the side effects of pain medication his mother was taking, which included opioids. Thomas, described in court documents as a “well-intentioned” man, had become so concerned that he believed the opioids his mother was taking were causing her to experience “delirium” and that she was being over-medicated to the point where she could no longer eat or drink. It was at that point that Love was brought in to address issues of pain management and medication options, as well as conflict between the son and hospital staff, according to court documents. Arleane had granted her son permission to give or refuse consent to medical care on her behalf through a representation agreement in 2013.

By early March 2015, Arleane was admitted to NRGH following the development of a large open cavity and there was no possibility of treating it, according to court documents, which also state that Thomas refused to consent to increasing Arleane’s pain medication and disagreed with Dr. Love and hospital staff over pain management plans. Nurses at NRGH were “distressed and tearful” and found it hard to provide care because Thomas interfered with their ability to provide painkillers.

On March 6, 2015, Love, who has more than 20 years of experience, called the son and told him his mother was in extreme pain and dying and needed better pain medication to reduce her suffering. Thomas disagreed, believing that Love was not acting in Arleane’s best interests.

Thomas’s decision-making privileges were eventually taken away by Love following advice from multiple health organizations including Vancouver Island Health Authority, as well as a legal opinion. Thomas filed a complaint to College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia against Love, arguing that the doctor’s actions violated the Health Care Professions Act, that end-of-life care had begun without proper consent and that he was improperly removed as his mother’s representative.

In the final days before her death, the doctor said nurses treating Arleane were “completely traumatized” and that one nurse had witnessed the woman crying for two days. Love told Thomas that his “personal ethics and morals mandated that he provide proper pain medication.”

Arleane died on March 22, 2015.

Following her death, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.’s inquiry committee conducted an investigation into Thomas’s complaint against Love. After the inquiry committee ended up dismissing the complaint in 2016, Thomas contacted the Health Professions Review Board, which determined the committee’s investigation had been adequate.

Thomas filed a application for judicial review with the Supreme Court of B.C. last year, seeking to have the review board’s decision quashed and to have the board rule that Love breached his professional obligations.

Last week, the Supreme Court dismissed the application for judicial review. In his decision, Justice Michael Brundrett noted that this case was not a “clear situation in which a physician plainly acted illegally against the wishes of a representative” and that the Health Professions Review Board’s decision was transparent and justifiable.

Although the Vancouver Island Patient Care Quality Review Board determined in 2016 that “it does not appear that the hospital had the right to revoke or override” the son’s representation agreement with his mother, the Supreme Court decision concluded that the inquiry committee was entitled to their finding that Love’s conduct was “satisfactory.”

The inquiry committee, the HPRB and the Supreme Court did not make a legal finding over the issue of consent that had been raised by the petitioner.



nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook or follow Nicholas Pescod on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: Hundreds march against location of safe injection site in Duncan

A Voice for Our Children opposes centre being near schools, recreation sites

Vancouver Island under a thunderstorm watch tonight

Environment Canada forecasts downpour and possible thunder and lightning

No new leads in Brown homicide case

Five-year mark passes without any additional information provided to police

Work progresses on Clement Centre’s new building in Cobble Hill

Sod-turning ceremony for facility held on Sept. 21

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

Cops for Cancer: COVID-19 can’t stop Tour de Rock

‘having the chance to come back and ride this year means everything to me’

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

Most Read