Homeless man wins court battle to keep his legs

Surgery ER Doctors

A 44-year-old homeless man, who nearly froze to death last month, has won a court battle to keep his legs.

Doctors at the CHUM super hospital argued his legs were so badly frostbitten that the only option was to amputate; but, the judge sided with the patient, who refused the surgery.

“At the end of the day, a patient is allowed to refuse lifesaving treatment,” said Dr. Mitch Shulman, CJAD 800’s medical expert, “as long as we can prove that they understand the consequences of making that decision.”

In this case, a psychiatrist found that the patient was not mentally capable of making the decision on his own; he was diagnosed with a psychiatric condition.

Nevertheless, the judge ruled the doctors could not go ahead and amputate the patient’s legs, which were already in necrosis.

“On the one hand, he wasn’t able to make a decision on his own, that’s true,” Dr. Mitch said in an interview CJAD 800 News. “But, on the other hand, they could not prove that it was immediately life threatening.”

In his case, the patient has death of the limbs, but according to Dr. Mitch, if the limbs aren’t infected and the patient isn’t in septic shock, doctors have time.

The court suggests using anti-biotics to stop the potential spread of infection, and at the same time, treat the man's psychiatric condition, hoping that he will eventually come around to the idea of amputating the legs.