Man Died After Hospital Imposed DNR Order, Daughter Begged Staff to Save Her Dad But They Did Nothing

International   |   Alex Schadenberg   |   Aug 26, 2019   |   10:11PM   |   Toronto, Canada

An 11-year battle to obtain justice for a veteran who was denied life-saving treatment against his wishes and without the consent of his daughter, the legally appointed power of attorney may have ended without justice.

On September 22, 2008, Douglas DeGuerre died after he was downgraded from full code to DNR without his consent or consulting his family.

On Friday, August 23, 2019 Ontario Superior Court Justice Peter Cavanagh dismissed the $2.2 million lawsuit against Dr Donald Livingston and Dr Martin Chapman by DeGuerre’s daughter, Joy Wawrzyniak.

The Canadian Press article by Michelle McQuigge reported that Justice Cavanagh decided that the physicians made an appropriate decision about DeGuerre’s health and took sufficient steps to communicate their actions to his daughter. McQuigge reported:

“Should Dr. Chapman and Dr. Livingstone have taken different or additional actions to try to reach the plaintiff to discuss the DNR order with her after it was made? Perhaps,” Cavanagh wrote, noting they could have stressed the urgency of the situation or provided personal mobile numbers.

“Without the benefit of hindsight, however, I am unable to conclude that actions taken by Dr. Chapman and Dr. Livingstone to communicate with the plaintiff about the DNR order would not be acceptable behaviour for a reasonably prudent physician in the same circumstances.”

According to McQuigge:

The court ruling said Chapman then left a voicemail for Wawrzyniak in which he said he wished to discuss her father’s condition, but made no mention of the newly implemented order and indicated “nothing has particularly changed.”

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Shortly after receiving the voicemail, court heard Wawrzyniak went to the hospital and found her father struggling to breathe.
She summoned hospital staff who tried to help, but court heard that when Livingston arrived he told Wawrzyniak that resuscitation would be of little benefit and only cause suffering. Chapman asked staff to stop trying to revive DeGuerre.

Wawrzyniak, a registered nurse, tried administering help herself, but was unsuccessful and DeGuerre died a short time later. She discovered the next day that her father’s status had been changed.

Justice Cavanagh erred by ignoring the fact that Chapman and Livingston made the decision without consultation. This was not an emergency situation where there is no time to consult the power of attorney.

Wawrzyniak has continued her pursuit of justice for 11 years. In September 2014 the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board found that the doctors violated the law by unilaterally imposing a do-not-resuscitate order on Douglas DeGuerre against his family’s wishes.

The decision by Justice Cavanagh dismissed the lawsuit against Dr’s Chapman and Livingston.

The doctors made the decision against the wishes of DeGuerre and his daughter, who was the legally appointed power of attorney. Even if physicians disagree with the family, the rights of the individual and their family should supercede the ideology of the doctors. Further to that, in Ontario, the Consent and Capacity Board exists to determine disputes between physicians and families.

Thank you Joy Wawrzyniak for continuing the battle for justice. Note: Alex Schadenberg is the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and you can read his blog here.