Late last year, I wrote about the case of Samuel Golubchuk, an elderly Canadian man whom his doctors wish to euthanize, over the strong objections of his orthodox Jewish family. (Hastening someone's death by withdrawing life support is known as "non-aggressive euthanasia.") A recent policy statement from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, asserts the power and the duty of physicians to euthanize patients, notwithstanding the objections of the patient or his family. Last week, a Winnipeg trial court issued an injunction requiring continued care for Mr. Golubchuk, pending a full trial on the merits.
According to the decision, Golubchuk's relatives
have produced an affidavit of a neurologist who practises in New York and has reviewed the entire hospital record of Grace Hospital. He has noted an absence of any examination of the plaintiff by a neurologist, any brain-imaging such as with CT scan or MRI, or other measurement of brain activity. He stated that the record contains many references to the plaintiff being awake and making purposeful movements that have not been reported by or explained by the defendants' deponents. He stated that the plaintiff has not been assessed for aphasia, locked-in syndrome or other treatable neurological illnesses, which could account for his apparent lack of consciousness. He concluded on that point:The court rejected the hospital's claim that settled law allowed a physician to terminate life-sustaining treatment over the objections of a patient or family. Further, wrote the court, it was possible that Golubchuk had a right to treatment under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or the common law. In light of the balance of equities (that Golubchuk would suffer an irreparable injury, namely death, without an injunction), the court enjoined the hospital from euthanising Golubchuk pending trial on the merits.
11. Furthermore, according to the documentation in the medical records, Mr. Golubchuk's condition has demonstrably improved (Exhibit "D"). There is no evidence whatsoever that he is brain dead, close to brain dead, or dying, from a neurological point of view. He has enough higher cognitive function to not only be considered awake but to make frequent, purposeful movements and engage in other purposeful activities.
I was surprised to find that the name of the hospital that wants to euthanise Golubchuk is the Salvation Army Grace General Hospital, which according to its website, is a "faith-based" facility.