Bioethics Blogs

Next Up: A Proposal for Values-Based Law Reform on Unilateral Withholding and Withdrawal of Potentially Life-Sustaining Treatment

Jocelyn Downie

The latest issue (54:3) of the Alberta Law Review is a special issue on health law.  


I plan to read several of the articles and already read this one:  “Next Up: A Proposal for Values-Based Law Reform on Unilateral Withholding and Withdrawal of Potentially Life-Sustaining Treatment.”


The unilateral withholding and withdrawal of potentially life-sustaining treatment presents a complex issue of law and public policy.  Jocelyn Downie, Lindy Willmott, and Ben White examine the current state of this practice and conclude that it is occurring, being challenged in the courts, and is treated differently in different jurisdictions. 


Downie, Willmott & White review the current state of the law in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada. The authors use Canada as a case study to outline a process for pursuing law reform. The authors propose a model for law and policy reform in this area that is both informed and shaped by the fundamental values of Canadian society.


Ultimately, the authors argue that physicians should NOT have unilateral authority to limit life-sustaining treatment.  Nicely, their vocabulary maps that in the 2015 ATS multi-society statement.  


I have had the pleasure of working with Downie, Willmott and White before and look forward to seeing them later this year in Halifax at the Second International Conference On End Of Life Law, Ethics, Policy, And Practice.

Source: bioethics.net, a blog maintained by the editorial staff of The American Journal of Bioethics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.