A Canadian judge is due to decide this week whether to renew a temporary injunction against Winnipeg's Grace General Hospital, whose doctors want to detach an 84-year-old Orthodox Jew from a respirator and hasten his death, against his family's wishes.
However, it was learned Sunday that the patient, Samuel Golubchuk, regained consciousness several days ago and appears to be improving.
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. Grace General Hospital has received the backing of the Canadian Medical Association in its efforts to bring about active euthanasia.
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.
The case has aroused anger and anxiety within the North American Jewish community that it will set a precedent for doctors to have exclusive power over life and death decisions. Rabbinical and community leaders worry that budget-conscious hospital systems may decide to shorten patients' lives to save money or to free up beds.
Prof. Shimon Glick, a leading Israeli medical ethics expert and former dean of Ben-Gurion University's Health Sciences Faculty, said: "From a halachic point of view, removing a feeding tube from a patient who has any brain function is active euthanasia, equivalent to murder... But here, in addition, unless the patient has specifically indicated by advance directive that such is his desire, one has a violation of the patient's autonomy, as well."
A Grace General Hospital lawyer told the court that doctors "have the sole right to make decisions about treatment - even if it goes against a patient's religious beliefs."
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