Fatality inquiry judge dismisses request for warnings about antipsychotic drugs

In another example of how citizens are routinely put at risk by the health care system, an Alberta judge has ruled that patients and their substitute decision makers do not need to be informed about the risks of proposed drugs or medical procedures.

 

In her report on the fatality inquiry into the Zyprexa-caused death of 61-year-old Carol Pifko in an Edmonton AB nursing home, Provincial Court judge Elizabeth Johnson ignored all recommendations put to her, including that long-term care staff inform patients and their families of the risks associated with Zyprexa (olanzapine). Judge Johnson wrote:

“It would seem to fetter a physician in how he or she deals with a patient or exercises his or her professional judgment.”

The judge’s statement does not square with the law. Every citizen in Canada has the right to refuse consent to medical treatment (including medication), and to be given information by the doctor about what treatments are proposed. That is the law. Canadian laws protect us from being subjected against our will to medical treatment or care that we do not consent to (with one exception, if a person is deemed to be a danger to others or themselves). Our laws were designed to prevent the atrocities committed by doctors in dictatorships such as Nazi Germany.

Informed consent is essential

It is recognized that information about proposed treatments, including medication, is essential to making health care consent decisions. “For consent to treatment to be considered valid, it must be an “informed” consent. The patient must have been given an adequate explanation about the nature of the proposed investigation or treatment and its anticipated outcome as well as the significant risks involved and alternatives available.” Consent – A guide for Canadian physicians, Kenneth G. Evans, General Counsel, Canadian Medical Protective Society, Fourth Edition.

If the person/patient is incapable, then their appointed substitute decision maker (SDM) has these rights. SDMs are also referred to as personal/health care representatives or proxies. If the patient has not appointed an SDM, (more…)

Myth – Police are diligent in investigating elder abuse

To hear criminology professor Robert Gordon tell a nation-wide CBC Radio audience a few weeks ago, you’d think that action is readily, even automatically, taken to investigate suspected elder abuse when it is reported. You’d be mistaken to draw that conclusion.

The Current, CBC Radio’s flagship investigative program, profiled the tragic death of Betty Anne Gagnon, an Alberta woman living with her sister and brother-in-law, both of whom pleaded guilty to negligence in Ms. Gagnon’s death and are awaiting sentencing. The segment “What happened to Betty Anne Gagnon?” aired on June 18, 2013.

On air, Professor Gordon, Director of the School of Criminology at British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University, said, “The Public Guardians and Trustees in Canada have a responsibility to ensure that individuals (who are abused or neglected or those who neglect themselves)… are protected.”

Prof. Gordon said that legislation governing the Public Guardian and Trustee offices in each province ensures that the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT), along with the health authorities and the police, “would be duty bound to actually investigate” complaints of elder abuse.

But how well does the Public Guardian and Trustee staff carry out those responsibilities and duties? And, how well are the criminal laws that supposedly protect citizens from elder abuse crimes being enforced? Let’s examine the evidence.

Reality: Media attention or exposing hidden video images can prompt action

Judging by the growing volume of disturbing cases brought to Seniors at Risk’s attention, reports of suspected elder abuse, and especially abuse by health care facility staff, are being routinely ignored by authorities, including and especially the police. Indeed CBC host Anna Maria Tremonti points out to Prof. Gordon that “family members tried to get help for Betty Anne (Gagnon) by calling the RCMP and various social agencies, but they say no one did anything.”  You can (more…)

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