Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In re Kenny Ng - B.C. Court Asked to Order fMRI for PVS Patient

57-year-old Kenny Ng has been in a vegetative state since an automobile accident seven years ago.  His wife Lora wants medical staff at George Pearson Centre to remove his feeding tubes.  (Vancouver Sun)

But Kenny's parents, siblings and relatives have asked B.C. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper to intervene and keep Ng alive in the hope he can benefit from recent neuroscience medical discoveries.  They argue that Kenny may qualify for pioneering treatments by brain researcher Adrian Owen.

Provincial precedent in B.C. endorses the view that life support should be terminated where medical specialists unanimously believe the patient is without awareness or hope of recovery and invasive treatment provided no potential benefit.  Normally, that would be the situation here.  An easy case.  

But the family insists that letting Ng die would be wrong given the startling work in neuro-imaging by Dr. Owen.  That research proves some patients  who have lain in vegetative states for years may be more conscious than we realize.

Most U.S. and Canadian jurisdictions authorize surrogates to withdraw life-sustaining treatment when the patient is PVS.  If the B.C. court overrides Kenny's wife on the grounds that there is still hope for PVS patients, such a decision will be in stark contrast to a huge body of jurisprudence. 


Ronn said...

Is the wife, as surrogate, not allowed on the basis of substituted judgement and/or best interests to make any medical decision for the patient in the case of PVS (or suspected PVS)? From a surrogacy perspective, how is Canadian law different than U.S. law in this case?

Thaddeus Mason Pope, J.D., Ph.D. said...

The court has not decided anything yet. Normally, the wife could make this call an w/h, w/d for a PVS husband.

What make this special is the other family says wife is NOT ACTING as an appropriate surrogate BECAUSE she is not pursuing the fMRI option.

Barb said...

Do you know how the court ruled in this case? I cannot seem to find any kind of follow-up and unfortunately only have access to US case law. Thank you!