In a precedent-setting decision, a Quebec court has rejected a request by a Montreal hospital to forcibly amputate the legs and several fingers of homeless man who suffered from severe exposure.
The patient, identified in the judgment only as K.D., is a 44-year-old native of Togo and was admitted to the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) on Dec. 11 suffering from severe frostbite. Many of the medical specialists at the centre’s burn unit judged that amputation was necessary, but the patient, who had been assessed as suffering from mental health problems, refused the procedure.
Superior Court Justice Gérald Dugré ruled that while the patient was not competent to consent to a procedure that will be inevitable, that refusal represented an expression of his wishes and constituted part of his fundamental rights. The judge also noted that “the CHUM has not demonstrated that amputation … is necessary at the moment.”
“These amputations … constitute an irreparable violation of the defendant’s person and his right to physical integrity, even if it has been irredeemably compromised after his severe frostbite,” he wrote.