I have blogged about assisted suicide in the past with reference to the Canadian television show Mary Kills People. The availability of assisted suicide continues to be a subject of public interest as each province deals with the implementation of the outcome of Supreme Court of Canada decision in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General).
As reported by The Globe and Mail, one particular doctor has removed himself from a roster of doctors who will administer assisted deaths because of changes to the physician fee schedule in British Columbia. Notwithstanding his support for assisted death, Dr. Jesse Pewarchuk of Vancouver Island wrote a letter to his colleagues to explain that the new fee schedule made “medical assistance in dying” economically untenable for his practice.
According to Kelly Grant of the Globe and Mail,
“Under the new fee schedule, B.C. physicians will now be paid $40 for every 15 minutes, up to a maximum of 90 minutes, to conduct the first of two eligibility assessments required by law. Each of the assessments has to be provided by a different clinician. That works out to $240, a significant increase from the $100.25 interim assessment fee that has been in place in B.C. since shortly after assisted death became legal.
For second assessments, the time is capped at 75 minutes.
In the case of providing an assisted death, the province has set a flat fee of $200, plus a home-visit fee of $113.15.”
Within the same article, it was reported that Ontario does not have specific billing codes for this type of medical service at this present time.
Thanks for reading.
The common law slayer rule makes the law in Canada clear that committing murder will prevent a person from inheriting the estate of the victim. For clarity, the accused must be found guilty and exhaust all of their rights to appeal before the courts will void a testamentary gift or beneficiary designation.
In the cases of Helmuth Buxbaum and Peter Demeter, who were found guilty of murdering their wives, the court refused to allow the men to benefit from their crimes by collecting the proceeds of their wives’ insurance policies. Pursuant to the case of Demeter v British Pacific Life Insurance Co.,  OJ No 3363, a criminal conviction will be accepted as proof of criminal activity in civil cases. Therefore, a person who has been convicted of murder cannot argue in civil court proceedings that he or she is innocent and capable of accepting a testamentary gift.
Recently, in Minneapolis, an individual named Michael Gallagher killed his mother, and around a year later, is attempting to obtain her life insurance proceeds. According to an article in the Toronto Star, bedbugs were infesting the apartment of Mr. Gallagher’s mother, and he believed that she would be evicted from her home, and decided to “send her to heaven.” The law in Minnesota is similar to the law in Canada, and their legislation states that an individual who “feloniously and intentionally kills the decedent is not entitled to any benefits under the will.”
This case turns, however, on the fact that Mr. Gallagher was not convicted for murdering his mother. In July, a Judge found that he was not guilty due to reasons of mental illness, stating that he “was unable to understand that his actions were wrong.” This finding allows Mr. Gallagher to potentially have a claim to his mother’s life insurance policy.
In Canada, a similar finding is known as NCRMD (Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder). If this case took place in Canada, it is likely that Mr. Gallagher would have been found NCRMD. This raises the important question of whether an individual, who is not convicted of murder, but has killed somebody, is still able to claim the proceeds as a beneficiary a testator’s estate or life insurance.
In the case of Nordstrom v. Baumann,  SCR 147, Justice Ritchie stated, “The real issue before the trial judge was whether or not … the appellant was insane to such an extent as to relieve her of the taint of criminality which both counsel agreed would otherwise have precluded her from sharing in her husband’s estate under the rule of public policy.“ The court held that the public policy slayer rule does not apply if the individual was found NCRMD at the time of the killing. Furthermore, in the case of Dreger (Re),  O.J. No. 2125 (H.C.J.), the court held that “[the] rule of public policy [that a person found not guilty for murder] cannot receive property under the will…the only exception to this rule is that a person of unsound mind is not so disqualified from receiving a benefit under the will of a person he has killed while in law insane.“ Lastly, the recent case of Dhingra v. Dhingra Estate, 2012 ONCA 261, upheld a similar finding and allowed the NCRMD individual to apply for the deceased`s life insurance policy.
The law in Ontario seems to uphold the principle that a mentally ill individual who was unable to understand the consequences of their actions should not be automatically disentitled to life insurance proceeds.
Thanks for reading,
Other Articles You Might be Interested In
Many of us spend a significant portion of our lives sitting. We sit while we eat, commute, work, and while we watch TV. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Ergotron found that on average North Americans are sitting for 13 hours a day.
I recently came across an article titled “Is sitting the new smoking?” published by Barry Samuel. Over the years, Barry has been featured by numerous media outlets as an authority on personal growth, change, and health and well-being. He is also founder of the Toronto based Health and Fitness centre, Insideout. In his article, Barry indicates that excessive sitting and sedentary jobs may very well be the single most significant contributor to poor health in North America.
I did some research and it would appear that Barry is right. Not only can too much sitting shorten our life expectancy, but it also appears to be wreaking havoc on our overall health and well-being. Several recent studies have alarmingly revealed that prolonged sitting can increase your risk for heart disease, cancer and death, regardless of physical activity.
Standing appears to be the solution. Standing a little more each day can tone muscles, improve posture, increase blood flow, and ramp up the metabolism, which in turn will encourage your body to burn extra calories.
Concerns, such as Barry`s, with respect to our sedentary lifestyle are becoming increasingly common. The problem has even been coined “Sitting Disease”. Perhaps the most obvious (and increasingly popular) way to avoid Sitting Disease is to convert the traditional workstation to a standing desk.
It seems many initiatives incorporating the standing desk have been introduced as of late in an effort to get people standing where they would traditionally be sitting. For example, Toronto teacher Alana Guinane was recently interviewed by CTV News regarding her decision to introduce standing desks into her classroom at Donview Health and Wellness Academy.
Ian Hull and I have taken this research, and Barry`s comments to heart. We recently made the switch to standing desks and are thrilled at how the change has improved both our energy levels and productivity.
Thank you for reading,
On December 15, 2009, the Good Government Act, 2009 received royal assent. This statute amended or repealed over 300 pieces of legislation, ranging from the Accumulations Act to the Off-Road Vehicles Act. There are various amendments that should be of particular interest to those of us who practice estate, capacity and trust litigation.
The Crown Administration of Estates Act is amended by adding a new section 5.1, dealing with the enforceability of compensation agreements. A “compensation agreement” is defined to mean an agreement with an heir of an estate that provides for compensation, directly or indirectly, to one or more persons or entities on the location, recovery or distribution of any interest in the estate to which the heir may be entitled. In cases of estates administered by the Public Guardian and Trustee, there must be fair disclosure before a possible heir is asked to sign a compensation agreement. In addition, there is a cap on compensation of 10 per cent of the value of the possible heir’s interest in the estate. Click here for the complete text of the Act.
The Health Care Consent Act, 1996 is amended to increase the time allowed, from two days to four days, for the Consent and Capacity Board to issue written reasons for decisions. In addition, the Act is amended to allow the Board to direct Legal Aid Ontario (instead of the Public Guardian and Trustee or the Office of the Children’s Lawyer) to arrange for legal representation for a person who may be incapable with respect to a treatment, managing property, admission to a care facility or a personal assistance service. Click here for the complete text of this Act.
Bianca La Neve
Bianca V. La Neve – Click here for more information on Bianca La Neve.
One form of Advance Directive is the Do Not Resuscitate Order, commonly referred to as a DNR Order, or simply a DNR. It is a written order, signed by a medical professional, indicating one’s desire that lifesaving measures not be initiated if one were to stop breathing or if one’s heart has stopped. A DNR Order is generally only put in place when a person is suffering from a serious, often terminal condition, and when ‘CPR will almost certainly not benefit the patient and is not part of the plan of treatment’.
Up until February 2008, an odd, but not insignificant loophole existed that prevented paramedics and firefighters from honouring any existing DNR while a person was being provided with emergency assistance on the scene, or while in transport to a medical facility. The Ambulance Act’s Basic Life Support Patient Care Standards, Version 2 meant that paramedics were legally obliged to initiate life support measures, including, but not limited to, chest compressions, artificial ventilation, and intubation. Perhaps 911 had been called in order for the person to be transported to a hospital to be rehydrated, or to be treated for an infection. Prior to February 2008, if something catastrophic were to thereafter unfold en route, emergency resuscitation measures would have been initiated, possibly with unimaginable consequences, even if a DNR order was provided to the paramedics or firefighters on-site.
In order to address this disconnect between personal wishes, best intentions and legal constraints, a DNR Task Force was struck in 2003. As a result, there is a new Do Not Resuscitate Confirmation Form that became the new standard in Ontario as of February 1, 2008. Once completed by a physician or nurse, the form authorizes paramedics and firefighters to withhold life support measures, as well as to provide palliative comfort care measures such as suctioning, oxygen, pain control (including morphine) and tranquilizers. This form can be viewed online here.
Jennifer Hartman, guest blogger
The Mini-Mental Status Examination (MMSE) is a quantitative measure of cognitive status in adults. Since its creation in 1975, the MMSE has become the most widely used standardized cognitive screening test in both clinical practice and research.
As a screening tool, the MMSE can have limitations, some of which are outlined here:
· Interestingly, the MMSE was never actually designed for diagnosis of dementia; rather it was to be used as ‘a practical method for grading the cognitive state’ (Folstein et al.). As indicated by the team that designed the MMSE (Folstein et al.), in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, the MMSE "does have a number of valuable features for clinical practice even though it cannot carry alone the diagnostic responsibility.”
· Questions have been raised about the use of the MMSE to track cognitive changes over time, specifically, about the clinical relevance of these changes due to the potential for measurement error.
· One’s score on the MMSE is likely to be negatively skewed by a language barrier. Ironically, some patients in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s Disease often revert to their native tongue, which, if not the English language, would serve to further skew their score.
· Psychological Medicine published a study back in 1982 that showed an increase in false positives amongst hospital patients with fewer than 9 years of education. Conversely, a highly educated person with mild dementia may score within the normal range on the MMSE.
· Studies have also shown that the test is not accurate in older adults who are illiterate.
· The MMSE is not reliable as a screening tool in someone with a learning disability (see reference) or a physical disability that would impair one’s ability to complete the test (e.g. blindness or deafness).
· A paper published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology reviewed MMSE results in older Mexican-Americans and found that the MMSE is ‘strongly influenced’ by noncognitive factors including marital status, language of interview and immigrant status.
When the MMSE is misused or applied inappropriately, cognitive deficits may be missed in some patients, while other patients may be misclassified. However, when applied prudently, and when considered in partnership with additional data (e.g. anecdotal information from family members, or the results of other cognitive tests), the MMSE is both a valuable and valid screening tool for measuring cognitive status.
Jennifer Hartman, Guest Blogger
Listen to the Health Care Consent Act.
This week on Hull on Estates, Megan Connolly and Sean Graham review the Golubchuk case out of Manitoba and discuss the Health Care Consent Act of Ontario.