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Individualism and the Decision to Withdraw Life Support

School of Sociological and Anthropological Studies, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, Canada
Societies 2018, 8(4), 117; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc8040117
Received: 21 September 2018 / Revised: 24 October 2018 / Accepted: 13 November 2018 / Published: 21 November 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Socio-Political Context of Death and Dying)
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Abstract

The 1996 Health Care Consent Act of Ontario (Canada) is a law that regulates medical decision making. Therefore, it also gives indications on how end of life decisions should be made. The goal of the law was to ensure and protect patient’s autonomy and avoid medical paternalism, especially at the end of life. Throughout this article, I would like to argue that one of the consequences of the 1996 Health Care Consent Act of Ontario is to promote individualism. Therefore, this law makes it improbable to attain a shared decision model. More specifically, the way the 1996 Health Care Consent Act is currently written, a proxy is assigned as a decision-maker for someone who is deemed incompetent. However, it also ensures that the proxy will be the only one with the burden of that decision. This argument will be supported by providing a qualitative description of three cases that I have encountered during my six-month fieldwork in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a hospital located in Ontario. This paper offers a reflection upon the consequences of using an alternative decision maker (proxy) to withdraw life support. View Full-Text
Keywords: end-of-life; autonomy; individualism; decision making; treatment withdraw; the 1996 Health Care Consent Act of Ontario; hospital ethnography; qualitative research end-of-life; autonomy; individualism; decision making; treatment withdraw; the 1996 Health Care Consent Act of Ontario; hospital ethnography; qualitative research
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Chartrand, L. Individualism and the Decision to Withdraw Life Support. Societies 2018, 8, 117.

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