Human Exceptionalism

Rasouli Leaving Hospital That Wanted Him Dead

Hassan Rasouli, a man who is in a minimally conscious state, will be transferred from the hospital that wanted him to die.

As readers of HE may recall, Rasouli suffered complications after brain surgery. Doctors swore he would remain forever unconscious and wanted to force him off life support. Wrong!

After Rasouli regained some awareness, the hospital still insisted on the right to turn off his ventilator without consent, because they considered such treatment “futile.” But the Canada Supreme Court ruled that administrators had to go through a legally established futile care administrative process, and couldn’t just unilaterally unplug the patient.

Now, Rasouli has been moved out of the ICU to a more appropriate facility. From the Toronto Star story:

A patient at the centre of a controversial Supreme Court decision on end-of-life care is on a waiting list to be transferred out of hospital to another health-care facility, where he will be expected to pay part of the tab.

The move is both good and bad news for Hassan Rasouli and his family. When he is transferred out of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, he will no longer be under the care of doctors who had wanted to remove him from life support. But when he becomes a resident of Toronto’s West Park Healthcare Centre, he will have to pay a monthly basic accommodation fee of $1,707, an amount his family says they cannot afford.

The family’s financial worries is a different issue than having efficacious treatment unilaterally withdrawn because it keeps the patient alive.

That is often called “futile care”, but it is actually to declare the patient is futile. It is to say that maintaining life–when that is wanted–is no longer the fundamental purpose of medicine.

But the issue of setting the proper level of medical intervention is a different matter altogether. Families should not have the right to force delivery of a higher level of care than the patient requires medically. And that truism doesn’t change because of financial worries.

One final note: The Rasouli case is materially different from the Jahi McMath tragedy, now in the news. She has been declared legally dead. Rasouli is unquestionably alive.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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