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2008 VP-Net End-of-Life Ethics and Decision-Making Forum

On June 9, 2008, approximately 250 health care providers, members of the legal community, disability advocates, and members of the general public attended the End-of-Life Ethics and Decision-Making Forum: Current Policy Debates About Withholding and Withdrawing Life-Sustaining Treatment at the University of Manitoba’s Bannatyne campus.

This event was presented by VP-Net in partnership with the Health Care Ethics Service at St. Boniface General Hospital, with financial support from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR).

The forum provided diverse analyses of current policies concerning the withholding and withdrawing of life sustaining treatment. Much of the discussion addressed the Statement on Withholding and Withdrawing Life Sustaining Treatment issued by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba in February 2008. Jocelyln Downie (Canada Research Chair in Health, Law and Policy from Dalhousie University) gave two presentations on the legal status of unilateral withholding and withdrawal of treatment, including a special public presentation at noon.

Other presenters included:

  • Bill Pope (College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba)
  • George Webster (Health Care Ethics Service, St. Boniface General Hospital)
  • Merrill Pauls (Family Medicine, University of Manitoba)
  • Jim Derksen (disability rights advocate)
  • Mike Harlos (Palliative Care Section of Family Medicine, University of Manitoba)

The afternoon session included a town hall discussion moderated by CBC’s Terry McLeod with panelists Marie Edwards (Faculty of Nursing, University of Manitoba), Dean Richert (attorney and member of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities' Human Rights Committee), Nancy Hansen, (Director of the Master’s Program in Disability Studies, University of Manitoba), Heidi Janz (John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre, University of Alberta) and Bruce Light (Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba).

The event attracted considerable coverage from the local and national television, radio and print media.

Making the conference space and presentations accessible in the widest possible sense was important to the planning committee. Accessibility for persons with mobility, sensory, and intellectual disabilities was provided for wherever possible. Presentations were made available in plain language and American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, attendant care was provided, measures were taken to ensure accessibility for persons using wheelchairs, and information was distributed, in advance, electronically for persons with visual disabilities. Speakers were also asked to explain verbally any logos or graphics used in Power Point presentations so sight-impaired participants could fully engage with the information presented.

Documents from the event:


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