Canadian Television Station produces exposé on the Rasouli case

By Alex Schadenberg, executive director
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Hassan Rasouli's wife Parichehr Salasel, centre, his daughter Mojgan and son Mehran speak to the media at Osgoode Hall after a court hearing. (May 18, 2011)

Television station CTV W5 has produced an exposé on the Rasouli case and other cases where the doctors have unilaterally and without consent decided to withdraw treatment from a patient. (See www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/20120203/w5-life-or-death-investigation-120204.)

The case of Hassan Rasouli is heading to the Supreme Court of Canada to decide “Who has the right to decide.” Doctors at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto are claiming that they have the unilateral right to withdraw life-sustaining treatment from a patient without consent of the patient or the substitute decision maker, who are usually the family.

Last June the Ontario Court of Appeals disagreed with the doctors, unanimously upholding the decision by Justice Himel  that requires doctors to obtain consent before withdrawing life-sustaining treatment.

The W5 show also spoke to Joy Warwrzyniak who launched a case after witnessing the doctors at Sunnybrook hospital in Toronto withdraw the ventilator from her father Douglas DeGuerre against his wishes and against her consent. Warwrzyniak was legally the substitute decision maker for her father.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition successfully intervened at the Ontario Court of Appeal in the Rasouli case. We argued before the three-judge panel that withdrawing life-sustaining treatment represented a change in the “treatment plan” and according to the Ontario law, consent is required in order to change the “treatment plan.”

When reading the unanimous decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal it is clear that they agreed with the position of EPC when they stated that consent is required before life-sustaining treatment can be withdrawn.

The Rasouli case will determine on a national level whether or not doctors are required to obtain consent before withdrawing life-sustaining treatment.

The W5 examined the issues concerning who legally has the right to decide to withdraw life-sustaining treatment. It was interesting that the doctors and the hospital were unwilling to make any comments on the show.