The 1990s witnessed Supreme Court decisions in both Canada and the United States on issues of competence that went against longstanding case law, psychological research, and common sense. These decisions held that there is to be one standard for all types of criminal competencies. The present research attempts to investigate whether this is an appropriate assumption and thus tests whether there are one or more constructs that underlie different types of competence. Two divergent types of competence were examined, competence to stand trial (both Canadian and American conceptualizations) and competence to consent to treatment, to determine if these different types of competence share a common underlying construct. Confirmatory factor analysis was used to test this question and results indicate that there is a common construct that underlies different types of competence.
Occasionally, an obstetrician can experience conflicts between the mother and her fetus. In a situation where the life of the fetus is in danger, religious, cultural, or other convictions may cause the mother to refuse the physician's recommendations for delivery. When there is a medical indication to perform cesarean section, but the mother refuses, has the obstetrician then a right to perform a cesarean section to save the fetus from possible death or serious injury? In 1987, The Norwegian Directorate of Health made a statement on cesarean section without consent, but later, new legislation on patient rights has been introduced. In Norway, no scientific medical articles have been published on this topic, and no cases have yet been brought to court. Cases of court-ordered cesarean section have been reported from the UK and the USA. In this report, we discuss some of the ethical, moral, and legal aspects of forced cesarean sections.
The principles of the right to informed consent and informed refusal are quite clear for competent adult patients. The right of a competent adult patient to give his informed consent before medical treatment can be started, is a patients' right that is recognised all over the world. The logical corollary of the right to informed consent is the right to informed refusal. A competent adult patient also has the right to refuse medical treatment by simply withholding or withdrawing his consent. A physician who starts medical treatment without the informed consent of his patient will be held liable for battery. Can these same principles be applied to minors? In other words: do minors also have the right to refuse medical treatment? Can a minor refuse even life preserving care? The interests of the involved parties (minor, parents and state) have to be weighed against each other case by case. A thorough examination of the available case law shows that the best interests of the minor are paramount. This "best interests" standard guides judges in their making of a decision. However, this is certainly not always in accordance with reality. In fact, minors can be mature enough to refuse treatment at a much earlier time than the age of legal majority, whatever the consequences of that refusal may be.
The Supreme Court of Canada's (SCC) first case involving capacity and the refusal of involuntary psychiatric treatment involved a self described "professor" who had been referred to as "Canada's Beautiful Mind". He had been found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder for uttering death threats. While considered incapable of making a treatment decision by psychiatrists and a review board, three levels of court, including the SCC, found him to be capable. "Professor" Starson therefore continued to refuse treatment for his psychosis and spent over seven years detained because he refused the treatment required to become well enough to be released. This refusal of treatment is permitted under Ontario law, although it is not permitted in some other Canadian provinces, and in many other countries. This article describes Starson's situation, Ontario's law with respect to consent to treatment and relevant Canadian constitutional and criminal law. It provides an analysis of the Consent and Capacity Board decision and the court appeals. Implications from Starson's case are analyzed in relation to what happened to Starson, human rights and comparative law pertaining to involuntary patients' refusal of treatment, especially their relevance to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and laws in some other countries. Many Canadian and foreign jurisdictions where laws apparently accord with human rights codes do not allow a person to refuse the treatment required to restore their liberty. We conclude that a law that allows a person with a mental illness to be incarcerated indefinitely in a "hospital" because needed psychiatric treatment cannot, by law, be provided is not justifiable in a caring democratic jurisdiction.