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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Doctors Can’t Unilaterally Pull Plug in Canada



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Readers of Human Exceptionalism might recall the Hassan Rasouli case. Rasouli, a devout Muslim, had a stroke. His doctors wanted to force him off life support over the objection of his family, who claim he would want to live. Litigation ensued.

The Canadian Supreme Court just ruled that it isn’t up to the doctors. From the Toronto Sun story:

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that doctors can’t unilaterally withdraw life support against a family’s wishes, even if they believe medical treatment is futile.

The ruling applies only to the province of Ontario.

This doesn’t mean the hospital won’t be able to force him off of treatment. Merely, they will have to go through an administrative process:

In a 5-2 decision, Canada’s highest court ruled physicians at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto cannot decide on their own to pull the plug on Hassan Rasouli and must go to the Ontario Consent and Capacity Board to resolve the dispute. “End of life decisions must follow a fair, inclusive and accommodating process,” the court ruled.

These processes can be very intimidating to patients and families. But it beats a unilateral plug-pulling.

Please note that the hospital and doctors want to stop the treatment because it works–e.g., it maintains Rasouli’s life–not because it is unefficacious.

In Futile Care Theory, continuing life is what isn’t wanted by doctors/bioethicists, even when it is wanted by patients/families. In essence, they are calling the patient futile. In other words, an ad hoc death panel.

We hear so much about a “right to die.” The real and growing problem we face is “no right to live.” 



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