OTTAWA – Counsel for The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) will appear today before the Supreme Court of Canada on the Cuthbertson v. Rasouli case. The case will determine whether physicians are required to obtain consent from a patient, or their substitute decision maker if they are incapacitated, before withdrawing life support.
“This decision will impact not only how we treat seriously ill Canadians, but also whether we as a society value their wishes and their sincerely held religious beliefs,” explains EFC Vice-President and General Legal Counsel Don Hutchinson.
The case is about an Ontario man who became comatose following complications with minor brain surgery. While his condition has reportedly since improved, 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began, his physicians determined that he was in a persistent vegetative state, had no hope of recovery and should be withdrawn from life support.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,” continues Hutchinson. “In this case, Mr. Rasouli and his family also hold religious beliefs about life, and believe that life should be respected until all signs of life are gone. The family wants Mr. Rasouli’s beliefs considered and are satisfied that the matter be heard by the Consent and Capacity Board.”
EFC Legal Counsel Faye Sonier adds, “This is not a family versus doctor tension. This is about recognizing the right of the patient to decide to accept or reject medical treatment based on a decision made from the perspective of his worldview or framework of reference about life. Physicians are not equipped to consider non-medical factors such as sincerely held religious beliefs and philosophical values of patients. When disagreement arises, the Consent and Capacity Board is the legislated venue to consider these factors and make these decisions.”
“The role of religious beliefs in this case must be a point of concern for all Canadians who may find their beliefs – or those of their family members – under-valued or even dismissed as they attempt to make critical end-of-life decisions in a culture where the value of life or a life worth living is evolving,” states Hutchinson.
Ottawa lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos of the law firm Vincent Dagenais Gibson LLP will be making the EFC’s oral arguments before the Court. You can read the EFC’s written legal arguments here.
Don Hutchinson will be available today prior to and following the hearing for interviews at the Supreme Court of Canada. He is also available at other times upon request. The hearing is set to begin at 9.00 am.
For more information or an interview contact:
Rick Hiemstra, Director of Media Relations
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
(613) 233-9868 x332