General Question

freestyletrue's avatar

A child in Canada is in a terrible car wreck. All family members die, his parents wrote no will, and he is left in a coma. What happens to him and who pays medical bills/holds custody of him?

Asked by freestyletrue (126points) August 26th, 2010

Can the hospital decide to pull the plug or not? Or is there some major legal mumbo-jumbo that prevents them from doing so? Who makes the decisions about him?
Also, could a complete stranger/charity organization apply to sponsor this kid and pay for his medical bills so he isn’t taken off of life support? Could a stranger apply to ADOPT this kid in order to do so?

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16 Answers

AmWiser's avatar

First and formost..find a good lawyer. That’s a truely sad story. I would definitely look into Canada’s laws regarding destitute and/or abandoned children. If an organization or charity has money to sponsor this child, they should also have funds to hire a good lawyer to help with all the legal mumbo-jumbo.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Isn’t health care in canada publicly funded and therefore free at the point of use?

Seaofclouds's avatar

I don’t know how things work in Canada, but typically in the U.S., the child would become a ward of the state if there was no family to take the child in. The state would appoint a legal guardian who would be responsible for making the medical decisions for the child. If a company or charity wanted to donate money to help the child, I’m sure the hospitals would be grateful. I would imagine that if someone wanted to step up and adopt the child, they would have to go through all the normal legal stuff anyone else wanting to adopt would have to do.

lillycoyote's avatar

I’m sure they have processes and protocols in place for just that kind of tragedy. I suppose, the province or whatever would assume custody and guardianship of the child until and unless a close family member, a grandparent or aunt or uncle willing to accept the responsibility and be appointed guardian. As to whether or not the hospital could “pull the plug,” unless there’s a Canadian attorney on fluther I don’t think you’re going to get an absolute answer to that one.

downtide's avatar

I think Canada has free public healthcare as the UK does? If this was the UK the child’s medical needs would be met indefinitely. The child would be made a ward of the local authority (county or city council), which basically means local council care, although that’s kind of irrelevant if he/she is permanently in hospital. I’m not sure if anyone would legally be allowed to make the decision to pull the plug but I’m pretty sure no-one would; the bad publicity alone would make such an act untenable for a local authority or for a hospital to decide.

ApolloX64's avatar

@downtide you would be correct, we do have public health care for now until the conservatives destroy that too and the child would be looked after under our system until such time as Child Services can appoint a guardian. In regards to “pulling the plug”, I’m not 100% clear on that one either, it’s a bit of a grey area up here and I believe they would only do something that drastic if all medical means had been exhausted and no other course of action would provide a positive boost to the child’s Quality of Life.

downtide's avatar

@ApolloX64 I think the reason the plug would not be pulled in the UK is for publicity reasons. Local authorities wouldn’t do it because there would be a public outcry and as those local authorities rely on public vote to stay in power they just wouldn’t do it. Ditto with hospitals, because the local authorities are seen to control hospitals and again, a bad decision like that would cost them votes. Perhaps even on a national level.

Winters's avatar

Do you mean all family as in his mother and father brothers and sisters? Or as in his whole living family? It could be very well possible (especially in his condition) that he’d go to the closest living relative.

freestyletrue's avatar

@Winters If all living relatives were deceased. And no guardians were ever indicated by the parents.

(Thank you for so many answers!)

marinelife's avatar

The province would become the child’s guardian and health advocate. They would be responsible for his medical bills as well.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@freestyletrue There is never a case where all living relatives are deceased!

The child without designated guardians becomes a ward of the Province. Medical care in Canada is available without additional cost to all legal residents. The province would cover any additional medical and costs of care for the child as long as it was required. Under no circumstances would their lives be ended by the province or the hospital to reduce costs or maximize insurance company profits as might occur in other countries. No party would be permitted to adopt this child in order to terminate care. Health care in Canada is a right!

ETpro's avatar

The National Healthcare System in Canada would pay for the childs medical care. If he’s not brain dead and has some hope of coming out of the coma, it would be murder to pull the plug on him. If his parents died intestate, the assets not required for their burial would go to the child as next of kin. Of course, if they did not have sufficient assets to cover funeral costs, then inheritance would cease to be an issue.

It would be up to a Family Relations Court to decide how to deal with adoption or long term conservatorship of the child. If he had surviving relatives, they would certainly rate high on the potential list of those who could step in. If not, then anyone expressing interest would be taken seriously and evaluated as an adoptive parent.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@ETpro Murder? That would mean whenever someone followed another person’s advance directive and terminated life support, they’d be guilty of murder.

ETpro's avatar

@Dr_Dredd A minor child could not leave such a living will. It would not be valid. And the question was specific in that his parents left no will, and he was in a coma. It then asked if the hospital could just pull the plug on life support, presumably to save the cost of keeping him breathing. My answer was based on this conditions.

It would certainly be very different if the patient were an adult who had left a living will instructing caregivers “Do not resuscitate.” or some such.

Civic_Cat's avatar

The way I figure it, chances are, it would be in the news.

The child would be put into a hospital. With no living will, or more appropriately, unable to consent to such even if he/she wasn’t in a coma, he/she would remain in the hospital until well.

They would try to locate the next of kin.

Until then, she might be a ward of the state or placed under foster care.

11 kids orphaned after parents killed in crash

Newborn survives, parents killed in Calgary crash

Premature baby orphaned after parents killed on way home from hospital
“The baby is expected to stay in hospital until November. She is under the care of a government department until it is decided who will raise her.”

“Also, could a complete stranger/charity organization apply to sponsor this kid and pay for his medical bills so he isn’t taken off of life support? stranger apply to ADOPT this kid in order to do so?”

Perhaps. I believe the courts would favour what would be in the best interest of the child; but the hospital bills would be paid by the state, and I think this would even apply with foreigners.

mollysmithee's avatar

Closest relative and if there is none, the state.

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