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Illinois Federation

For Right to Life

Daily News

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Doctor Claims Efforts to Keep Disabled , Still Responsive Man Alive "Grotesque" and "an Abomination"

Resigns rather than obey court injunction to not deny patient nutrition and hydration


Efforts to keep 84 year-old Canadian Samuel Golubchuk alive are "grotesque", an "abomination", "immoral" and "tantamount to torture", according to a doctor who has been trying to have Golubchuk's treatment ended so as to "allow him to die". Dr. Anand Kumar, a critical care specialist, has resigned from Winnipeg's Grace Hospital rather than obey a court order to continue treating Mr. Golubchuk. Dr. Kumar was the physician who originally made the decision to remove Mr. Golubchuk's life support against the strong wishes of Golubchuk's family.


"Given that I believe that continued support of this patient is tantamount to torture, I cannot ethically follow the mandates of the court order governing his care," Dr. Kumar wrote.


The Golubchuk family and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority have been arguing in the courts over Samuel's fate since he fell ill with pneumonia last autumn, with doctors arguing that keeping him alive is "not in his best interests". A court heard that Mr. Golubchuk's kidney and lung function are worsening and that he is "barely above a vegetative state". He has also developed ulcers on his skin that are becoming infected.


When the hospital tried to halt his food, hydration and ventilator, Samuel's family filed an injunction against the hospital and have produced medical witnesses who have said there is no evidence Mr. Golubchuk is brain dead. The family's lawyer, Neil Kravetsky said, "He's still living, breathing. His condition isn't as bad as it was then, when we filed the injunction."


The family maintains that to kill him by withdrawing food and hydration would violate his beliefs as an Orthodox Jew. Samuel Golubchuk suffered some brain damage in a fall in 2003, but is still responsive and capable of communication.


In February, in his ruling granting a temporary injunction against withdrawing treatment, Justice Perry Schulman of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench said that there were sufficient grounds to doubt the hospital's analysis of the patient's condition. Justice Schulman ordered the hospital to continue treating Golubchuk until a trial can be held.


Lawyers for the hospital have gone to court this week asking to expedite the trial date, claiming that continuing to treat Mr. Golubchuk is causing "stress" to health care staff.


"I have been advised...that the nurses caring for Mr. Golubchuk have experienced a great deal of additional stress in providing care that they believe is harmful to the patient's dignity and not in his best interests," hospital chief medical officer Elizabeth Cowden wrote in an affidavit filed Tuesday.


Neil Kravetsky said the position of the hospital is contradictory. "Their position is that he's suffering no damages because he's not cognizant, and yet...they describe torture which reflects a person having been tortured intentionally or suffering severe pain, so which is it?"


Kravetsky also argues the defendants have failed to provide enough medical evidence to show that Golubchuk cannot recover from his current state. Kravetsky has already produced statements from two U.S. doctors who suggested there is no evidence that Golubchuk is brain dead.


A statement from the family says, "Sam is not in a 'vegetative' state, nor is he suffering from a terminal illness of any kind. He is not suffering and is in no pain whatsoever. The hospital seems to want to end his life because he's old, he's weak and he's disabled and it doesn't want to spend money on his care - although it doesn't mind using taxpayers' money to fund its legal crusade!"


"This is not just about Sam's life. We're also fighting for ourselves, our children and everyone we care about; We're fighting for the kind of society we want to live in and leave to future generations. If bureaucrats can refuse to care for our father because he's too old and disabled, then they can refuse to care for anyone they deem unworthy."


A Court of Queen's Bench judge is expected to rule by next week whether to expedite the trial. Meanwhile, the family is seeking assistance with the legal bills for their continued fight for their father and have set up a website where concerned people can make donations.


As a young man, they said, Sam Golubchuk "fought in places like France and Belgium and was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and human dignity... He has earned the right to be treated with dignity in the twilight of his life."


Contact:  Hilary White


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The IFRL is the largest grassroots pro-life organization in Illinois. A non-profit organization, that serves as the state coordinating body for local pro-life chapters representing thousands of Illinois citizens working to restore respect for all human life in our society. The IFRL is composed of people of different political persuasions, various faiths and diverse economic, social and ethnic backgrounds. Since 1973 the Illinois Federation for Right to Life has been working to end abortion and restore legal protection to those members of the human family who are threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. Diverse though we are, we hold one common belief - that every human being has an inalienable right to life that is precious and must be protected. IFRL is dedicated to restoring the right to life to the unborn, and protection for the disabled and the elderly.   Click here to learn more about the IFRL.