Now in Polish at Racjonalista. Thanks, Malgorzata!
First of all, the press release from the EFC:
OTTAWA – Counsel for The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) will appear before the Supreme Court of Canada on Monday, December 10, 2012 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began, his physicians determined that he was in a persistent vegetative state, had no hope of recovery and should be withdrawn from life support.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.
My comment on this will be brief, and will address itself to one part of the press release.
At the end, EFC Vice-President and General Legal Counsel Don Hutchinson is quoted as saying:
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.
In view of the EFC’s stated opposition to assisted dying in any form, this is a telling contradiction. For if religious believers are worried that their beliefs will be undervalued or dismissed at the end of life, just consider that, by law, the beliefs of those who make other end-of-life decisions are not accommodated in any way. Why should religious believers’ beliefs be taken seriously, if those believers constantly oppose taking the beliefs of others, who wish to receive assistance in dying, seriously? No doubt the EFC would say: Because that is against the law. But the reasons for it being against the law are almost entirely based in the religious history of the law itself. Now, people are saying that they no longer wish to be governed by religious prescriptions and proscriptions that are a part of our history. Now, we want to be treated as adults who can legitimately ask for assistance in dying when life has reached the stage of being intolerable. The EFC would remain opposed, although they want to demand that the law take their religious beliefs into account in situations — such as the one in question — where the medically indicated course of action is to acknowledge that life has come to an end. Thus do Christians speak with forked tongue. Why should we pay attention to religious beliefs, if those religious believers will not pay attention to the beliefs of others who do not share the Christian or Muslim beliefs in the sanctity of life, which is opposed to their request for assistance in dying? When Christians are consistent in this matter, then, perhaps, it will be time to talk about respecting the beliefs of all at the end of life. But the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada should recognise that it cannot have its cake and eat it too, as it so obviously wishes to do.