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Report No. 196

The Judge referred to section 217 of the Criminal Code, which says:

"217. Every one who undertakes to do an act is under a legal duty to do it if any omission to do the act is or may be dangerous to life".

In respect of section 217, (formerly section 199 of the previous Criminal Code), the Law Reform Commission of Canada, in its Working Paper 28 (Euthanasia, Aiding Suicide and Cessation of Treatment) (1982) (p 17) had stated:

"Section 199 of the Criminal Code, read in isolation, seems to imply that a physician who has undertaken treatment is not permitted to terminate it if this involves a risk to the life of the patient. If this were the case, the law would require the use of aggressive and useless therapy. It would have the effect, in many cases, of causing doctors to hesitate seriously before undertaking treatment, for fear of not being permitted to terminate it later, when it no longer appears to be useful. If this were the actual implication of the rules, then the rule would be absurd and would have disastrous effects on medical practice."

It should not be forgotten that section 217 follows section 216 which reads:

"Section 216. Duty of persons undertaking acts dangerous to life: Everyone who undertakes to administer surgical or medical treatment to another person or to do any other lawful act that may endanger the life of another person is, except in case of necessity, under a legal duty to have and to use reasonable knowledge, skill and care in so doing."

Section 217 which comes immediately after section 216 cannot be read independently of section 216 which requires that a physician act with reasonable knowledge, skill and care when he undertakes to administer surgical or medical treatment to another person or does any other lawful act that may endanger the life of another person, section 217 logically follows from section 216.



Medical Treatment to Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) Back




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