Discontinuing treatmentvictims of violence

Victims of assault often come to the intensive care unit. It may happen that further treatment becomes futile and should be discontinued. Would there be any effect on the charge brought against the assailant? Might it prevent a charge of murder, if the victim appeared not to have died directly as a result of the assault?

In one such case (R. v. Malcherek [1981]), where a ventilator was switched off, it was argued that the original assault was not murder because the victim would still be alive if the doctors had not switched off the ventilator. The judge rejected this argument and was upheld in the Court of Appeal. A similar outcome resulted when a victim of assault who was a Jehovah's Witness refused transfusion and died.

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