Nurse Acquitted from Charges of Manslaughter and Criminal Negligence Causing Death after Withdrawing Life Support without Doctor’s Authority

Nurse Joanna Flynn pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death after disconnecting a patient’s life support without doctor’s authority.

The patient, Deanna Leblanc was a 39 year-old  mother of two who had gone into cardiac arrest. She was resuscitated several times before being hooked to a ventilator in a hospital in Midland.  Although Midland doctors said that Leblanc was likely to have brain damage due to lack of oxygen, they indicated that there was too much uncertainty to make that diagnosis.

The Crown alleged that Flynn coerced Leblanc’s husband into agreeing to withdraw life support after informing him that Leblanc was “brain dead” and that her heart would burst if he did not permit Flynn to do so. Flynn denied the husband’s account of the events, claiming she had acted only after getting his permission. 

Flynn was acquitted earlier today after the jury heard evidence supporting the argument that Flynn was entitled to rely on what the doctors said about Leblanc’s condition and that there is no requirement to have a doctor’s order to terminate life support.

The legal fight around Leblanc’s death are not over, however. Flynn faces a disciplinary hearing at the College of Nurses and a labour arbitration with the hospital in addition to a civil suit launched by LeBlanc’s husband and two sons for $1.8 million.