End of Life Policy in Canada

Competent adults in Canada have the right to refuse potentially life-saving medical treatments


The purpose of this project was to examine the state of Canadian policy concerning end-of-life care. Canadian law clearly states that competent adults have the right to refuse treatment, or to withdraw from potentially life-sustaining treatment, but laws concerning non-competent adults and minors are less clear. Many doctors were unclear about the legal implications of withdrawing or withholding potentially life-saving treatments, and care is inconsistent across the country.

Grant Outputs

Review of Withholding and Withdrawal of Potentially life-Sustaining Treatment Policies in Canada – http://as01.ucis.dal.ca/dhli/cmp_welcome/default.cfm

This report reviews the legal issues pertaining to end of life care to ensure that stakeholders are better informed and better able to engage in discussions and debates about end of life policy and practice in Canada. In particular, the report focuses on education about the provision of palliative treatments that may hasten death and the withholding and withdrawal of potentially life-sustaining treatments. It concludes with “a template policy on advance health care directives,” that establishes guiding principles like respecting the wishes of patients and encouraging patients to express their treatment wishes by means of an advanced health care directive. The research, education materials and policy recommendations of the Dalhousie Health Law Institute End of Life Project are available on their website

Withholding and Withdrawing of Potentially Life-sustaining Treatment – http://as01.ucis.dal.ca/dhli/cmp_documents/documents/WW_Brochure.pdf

This educational brochure provides basic definitions about the meanings of withdrawal and withholding of potentially life-saving treatments. It also directly quotes court rulings that support patients’ rights to bodily integrity and final say over medical treatments. It provides information about incompetent adults’ ability to determine their own medical treatment with valid advance directives.

Grant Details

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