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

Just Posted

No home for Agassiz Community Garden on school district land

The garden is still homeless after SD78 said no to the society using the McCaffrey School property

Life rings, signs to improve safety on Harrison waterfront

Harrison council approved $125,000 in aquatic safety projects for the beach

PHOTOS: Harrison students take on the Bunny Run

Harrison Hot Springs Elementary students dressed up for the Easter event

No more mobile vendors on Harrison beach

The approval of an updated business licence bylaw means Nolan Irwin is without a cart

Chilliwack PEO: ‘We who are sisters’

International oganization celebrating 150 years of service

VIDEO: Agassiz, Harrison celebrate National Pet Day

From cats and dogs to lizards and chickens, residents showed off the animals that enrich their lives

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

B.C. mom wages battle to get back four kids taken from her in Egypt

Sara Lessing of Mission has help from Abbotsford law firm

VIDEO: Fire guts Peachland home

Crews are still on scene pumping water onto the blaze in the Okanagan neighbourhood

$6K raised in one day’s time for family of woman gunned down in Penticton

GoFundMe launched for family of Darlene Knippelberg, to pay for funeral costs and other expenses

B.C. mountain biker sent home from hospital twice, despite broken vertebrae

Released in Maple Ridge to go home with three fractured vertebrae

Seven tips to travel safely this Easter long weekend

An average of three people are killed, and hundreds more injured, each Easter long weekend in B.C.

Seattle’s 4-20 ‘protestival’ enjoys tolerance, some support – and B.C. could do the same

Seattle’s Hempfest a large-scale occasions with vendors, prominent musical acts and thousands of attendees

Most Read