By Dave Andrusko
Jonathan Sher writes for the London (Ontario) Free Press and has covered medical disputes that make their way into public view. In that capacity Sher has written about both “Baby Joseph” and Hassan Rasouli. In an analysis piece he wrote Monday, Sher compared and contrasted these two highly sensitive, highly important cases.
Readers of National Right to Life News Today are very familiar with the case of Baby Joseph. The Cliff Notes version is that doctors at Victoria Hospital in London, Ontario described the baby to be in a persistent vegetative state (later disproven) and were determined to remove Joseph from the ventilator against his parents’ wishes.
Moe & Sana Maraachli wanted to bring Joseph brought home to die and asked that a Tracheotomy be done to enable Joseph to breathe on his own. The doctors and the hospital refused arguing it amounted to “futile therapy”–and brought the case to Ontario’s Consent and Capacity Board who sided with the doctors.
The Maraachli family appealed the decision to the Superior Court, who also sided with the doctors and the hospital. Eventually an American hospital agreed to perform the Tracheotomy and the parents were proven to be correct. “That surgery gave Joseph an extra seven months, during which he was surrounded by the love of his family and received proper care,” as bioethicist Wesley Smith explained.
As Sher pointed out, the doctors caring for Hassan Rasouli at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto flatly reject taking their dispute with Rasouli’s family to the Consent and Capacity Board. “Dr. Brian Cuthbertson and Dr. Gordon Rubenfeld say Rasouli is in a vegetative state, won’t recover and is needlessly suffering,” Sher wrote. “Rasouli’s wife, a physician in her native Iran, disagrees.” They wish to take Mr. Rasouli off of life-support.
This is ominous on a number of grounds. I’m not familiar enough with the situation in Canada to know, but pro-lifers I respect speak favorably of the Consent and Capacity Board. Disputes are settled quickly and doctors do not always win, as was the case with Mr. Rasouli.
But Sunnybrook, having lost before Ontario’s top court in June, has taken its case to the Supreme Court of Canada which last week agreed to hear an appeal from the Ontario Court of Appeal’s June 2011 ruling in Cuthbertson v. Rasouli. The doctors have assembled doctors and bioethicists to argue their case. Typically, the advice from bioethicists is awful. Consider these three sentences from Sher’s story:
“They include Dr. Laura Hawryluck, a critical-care physician in Toronto with a masters in bioethics who has played a leading role in that field.
“Hawryluck warns the Ontario court has pushed end-of-life decisions from doctors to ill-informed patients and those who represent them.
“’It would create a situation where medically uneducated and uninformed patients and substitute decision-makers could demand treatments not in accordance with standards of medical care,’ Hawryluck wrote in an affidavit to the court.”
The “dummies” that make up a panel of the Consent and Capacity Board include a lawyer, a citizen and a psychiatrist. So what Sunnybrook is demanding is absolute, unfettered autonomy to do what it pleases.
As the case heads to the Supreme Court of Canada the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC), which intervened on the side of the family, perhaps best summarized what is at stake.
“The Rasouli decision was a huge victory for individual rights and it assured that the rights of individuals would be respected.
“The Rasouli decision had profound implications for patients throughout Ontario and Canada in terms of feeling safe and secure in accessing medical services near the end of life.
“The Rasouli decision maintained the role of the Consent and Capacity Board. Doctors continue to have the right to seek consent from the Consent and Capacity Board when consent is refused by the person or the attorney for personal care.
“EPC is concerned that if the Rasouli decision is overturned that vulnerable Canadians will be denied Life-Sustaining treatment or care, against their wishes or consent. The definition of Life-Sustaining Treatment or care includes fluids and food, ventilators and antibiotics.”
For more about the Appeals Court of Ontario’s decision, read, “Toronto Star Agrees with Rasouli Decision.”
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