Thursday, January 17, 2008

Canadian Doctors Try to Cut Off Life Support of Elderly Patient Against Wishes of Him and His Family

Those who worship at the altar of socialized medicine, as typified by the Canadian national health care system, may want to consider the case of Samuel Golubchuk, an 84-year old Orthodox Jewish patient. Doctors at Winnipeg Grace General Hospital sought to disconnect Mr. Golubchuk from his respirator in order to hasten his death. The doctors insisted upon this action, which violates halacha (Jewish law), against the express wishes of Mr. Golubchuk's family and apparently against the previously stated wishes of the patient himself. The doctors and the hospital insisted that they were not bound by the family's wishes, because Mr. Golubchuck was "imminently dying." When the family went to court to obtain a temporary restraining order against the disconnection of the respirator, the hospital's attorney argued that the doctors "have the sole right to make decisions about treatment - even if it goes against a patient's religious beliefs." Moreover, Grace General Hospital received the backing of the Canadian Medical Association in its efforts to take a course of "treatment" that, if not active euthanasia, is very, very much like it.

A Canadian judge was to determine this week whether to renew the temporary injunction against removing Mr. Golubchuk's respirator. However, it was learned Sunday that, hopefully to the shameful embarrassment (if not the civil and criminal prosecution) of the hospital and its doctors, Mr. Golubchuk had regained consciousness several days ago and appears to be improving, facts which the hospital apparently deliberately concealed from the court. Although a hospital doctor treating Golubchuk wrote "Awoke" on his chart, the hospital did not disclose this to the court. The family said the hospital had been trying to make the patient appear to be dying and with minimal brain function. According to the chart, which the judge was apparently not shown, the supposedly "imminently dying" Golubchuk is not only awake but has interacted with people and made purposeful movements. Jonathan Rosenblum, in a post at the Cross-Currents website, quotes reports that Mr. Golubchuk is now described as “awake, alert, has returned back to his baseline, sitting up in a chair at times, more interactive, and shaking hands purposively.”

Mr. Rosenblum writes further:

"Nevertheless his doctors still seek to kill him, and are contesting the matter in court, including moving to exclude the affidavits of experts on the grounds that they arrived too late. Apparently winning to them is more important than Mr. Golubchuk’s life. Indeed in a similar case recently in Calgary, involving an elderly Chinese man, whose family contested the doctors’ decision to cut off life support, and won, the patient eventually improved so much that he was able to walk out of the hospital and return home. Nevertheless the doctors continued to pursue an appeal. Presumably they wanted to bring him back to the hospital and kill him."

Is this what we have to look forward to from "HillaryCare." "ObamaCare" or "EdwardsCare?"

UPDATE--It can Happen Here: David Kopel discusses the Golubchuk case at The Volokh Conspiracy, and makes a cogent argument about how socialized medicine encourages these sorts of ethical conflicts. However, as the comments to his post rather chillingly demonstrate, the assertion by doctors of a right to terminate care against the wishes of a patient's family is not limited to Canada; indeed, a Texas statute, the "Advance Directive Act," signed into law by George W. Bush when he was the Governor of the Lone Star State, "authorizes physicians to refuse to honor a patient's advance directive, or the wishes of a patient's guardian, and discontinue life-sustaining medical care, including ventilators and feeding tubes. The Act was used March 15, 2005, to remove 6-month-old Sun Hudson from a ventilator at Texas Children's Hospital, his parents' wishes to the contrary notwithstanding. Hudson died is his mother's arms moments later. Under the Act, a physician, with the approval of an ethics committee, may override an advance directive or a parent's wishes in so-called 'futility cases' where continued treatment is not deemed medically beneficial."

I guess the real question is what is considered medically beneficial. Samuel Golubchuk regained consciousness and sat up in a chair. Perhaps, God forbid, even as I write this, he has lapsed back into a coma or perhaps even has died. His life may have been extended only for a few days or a few hours. But to Torah-observant Jews, and many religious Christians and people of other faiths as well, human life is of infinite value, and therefore even a few hours of additonal life of a patient who is unconscious and unresponsive are of inestimable value.


Anonymous James Hill said...

Mazaltov! Mr Golubchuck may not be out of the woods yet, but he is recovering!

It could have been my Grandpa or yours, or even me or you. Let us all remember for the whom the bell tolls.

Saturday, February 02, 2008 11:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Jane Smith said...

I would like to share a truly heartbreaking story of an Ottawa, Canada woman who suffered at the hands of not one, but numerous doctors in Canada - this is a must read!!

Summary: I wanted to share my Mom’s experience with the Canadian Healthcare System in the hopes to increasing awareness about the problems that exist within the Canadian Healthcare System and the unnecessary emotional and physical burdens these problems place on patients seeking adequate, timely medical care.

I wish I could say that my dear Mom’s medical treatment went smoothly without physical or emotional stress, but I cannot. In fact, my Mom had a tremendous amount of difficulty getting quality care in a timely manner, which not only contributed to her earlier death, but also caused her an enormous amount of anxiety and grief. I suppose these are the times when our healthcare system is really tested, when a patient enters the system with a time-sensitive illness, not a patient with a simple winter cold who leaves the doctor’s office happy and able to recover. For my mom, the combination of long wait times, inadequate preventative care, lack of communication among doctors, and lack of continuity during her medical care all played a critical role in contributing to her death.

I should preface this story by saying that, like many Canadians, my dear Mom was very proud of the Canadian healthcare system. She firmly believed that each and every Canadian should have access to the same high quality healthcare, regardless of financial status or social ranking. Sure, my Mother understood that there were a few short-comings within the system, but she felt that these short-comings were small sacrifices to ensuring equal healthcare access for all. Unfortunately, it was this very same healthcare system that ultimately let her down and most certainly contributed to her heartbreaking early death.

Sunday, March 02, 2008 10:00:00 PM  

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