Canadian Courts to Decide on End-of-Life Treatment

By Victoria Brewster, MSW

Since 2010 he has been in a vegetative state-kept alive by machines. The family immigrated from Iran in May of 2010 and five months later he underwent surgery for a benign brain tumor. Unfortunately, he developed an infection which destroyed multiple parts of his brain. Drs. Brian Cuthbertson and Gordon Rubenfeld state there is no chance of recovery and they want to end the current treatment and change the treatment to palliative care. Mr. Rasouli’s wife who is a trained physician does not agree with the recommendation.

The Supreme Court is meeting to discuss, debate and make a decision. Who should decide a patient’s medical outcome? The family? or The medical professionals whose role(s) is/are between saving a life and the ability to decide on withdrawl of life-sustaining care based on a belief that it is no longer of any medical value?

The lawyer representing the two physicians says, “We shouldn’t determine whether a person gets medical treatment based on a religious wish to have it.” The decision should instead turn, he told the court, “On the medical standard of care with the decision remaining subject to review of the courts.”

Rasouli’s wife says, “For me, he is conscious because he understands what I am saying to him and he responds to me,” Outside of the courtroom, she described how her husband holds up his fingers in response to queries and communicates with his eyes.

Some additional comments, “Patients who are kept alive despite there being no hope of recovery waste away as their bodies degenerate, Underwood said.

“Artificially prolonging life inflicts a terrible indignity,” Mr. Underwood said. “These patients are not just kept alive – they are forced to be kept alive.”

Going a few steps further, what does this cost the province of Ontario? There is a hospital room to consider, the medical equipment, and the staff to care for Mr. Rasouli.

The Shia Muslim faith dictates, as one Toronto-area ayatollah put it, that “A person is entitled to be kept alive until all the signs of life are gone.” Most importantly, the family believes the decision should be theirs — that the state should not have the power to decide who lives and who dies.

He is alive because he is on a respirator. If that was taken away, I am assuming he would die as he is not able to breathe on his own.

The National Post reports that, “We have to take into account the constraints imposed by our public health-care system. Keeping someone on life support is one of the most expensive of all kinds of care. It requires the ongoing use of specialized equipment, scarce hospital beds, as well as the care of nurses and doctors — all for someone who will likely never recover.”

This is not an easy decision and I am sure the Supreme Court of Canada will spend quite a bit of time deliberating on this. An outcome is not expected for many months. The outcome will have huge impacts on Canada’s healthcare system; whether it is ney or yey.

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/1300291–supreme-court-decision-on-hassan-rasouli-will-clarify-end-of-life-medical-decisions

http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/12/11/jesse-kline-on-hassan-rasouli-making-decisions-about-death/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/religious-beliefs-cannot-trump-right-to-live-decisions-supreme-court-told/article6145927/

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