Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. NEWS BULLETIN file photo

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. NEWS BULLETIN file photo

Supreme Court vindicates Vancouver Island doctor who medicated dying woman against 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 and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

The Vancouver Island Crisis Society has seen a five per cent rise in call volumes compared to this time last year. (Black Press Media file photo)
Winter blues a concern for Vancouver Islanders during COVID-19 Christmas season

Statistics show British Columbians anticipate worsening mental health

Jason Soukochoff is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, say Victoria police. (Courtesy VicPD)
Victoria police seek man with violent criminal history against elderly

Jason Soukochoff wanted on Canada-wide warrant for parole violations

Bystanders attend to a cyclist who is knocked to the pavement of Oak Bay Avenue. Witnesses say the cyclist was knocked off their bike in a dooring incident on Oak Bay Avenue at Fell Street at around 12:40 p.m. on Wednesday. 
(Daniel Opden Dries Photo)
UPDATED: VicPD tickets driver for ‘dooring’ cyclist on Oak Bay Avenue

Incident occurred at Oak Bay Avenue and Fell Street

West Shore RCMP pulled over a 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee on Nov. 23 after noting that it didn’t appear safe for the road. (West Shore RCMP)
West Shore RCMP pull over vehicle held together by tape and cargo strap

RCMP deemed the vehicle unsafe for the road and had it towed away

Salon owner Philip Ferreira with the PPE collection box at The Natural Hair Salon, 618 View St. (Mariah Johal photo)
Victoria salon inspires more mask recycling

Anyone welcome to drop disposable masks in bin outside View Street shop

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 24

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Haven Daley)
POLL: Do you think the current COVID-19 restrictions should continue beyond Dec. 7?

One week into the new restrictions to curtail the spread of the… Continue reading

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

An excavator was stolen from a rural property south of Nanaimo this month, say police. (Photos submitted)
Excavator stolen from property south of Nanaimo

Bobcat Mini believed to have been stolen between Nov. 12-14, say RCMP

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Most Read