The Cuthberton v. Rasouli case was about an Ontario man who became comatose following complications with minor brain surgery. At the time the legal proceedings began his physicians determined that he was in a persistent vegetative state, had no hope of recovery and should be withdrawn from life support.
His family, including his wife who is a physician, disagreed with the diagnosis and sought an injunction to prevent the physicians from unilaterally removing Mr. Rasouli from life support. The Ontario courts ruled that doctors must obtain consent, either from the patient or his substitute decision makers, prior to withdrawing medical treatment. If consent is not obtained, the physicians’ option under current Ontario law would be to continue treatment and proceed to the Consent and Capacity Board for a ruling. The Board is required to hear from both sides and consider the patient’s wishes and beliefs, including religious beliefs, in the process of making a decision.
Patient wishes must be considered in regard to their medical care. In this case, Mr. Rasouli and his family also held religious beliefs about life, believing that life should be respected until all signs of life are gone. The family wanted Mr. Rasouli’s beliefs considered and were satisfied that the matter be heard by the Consent and Capacity Board.
The hearing at the Supreme Court of Canada was held on December 10, 2012. The Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision in October 2013. This decision is relevant not only to how we treat seriously ill Canadians, but also whether we as a society value their wishes and their sincerely held religious beliefs.