Battle Over Samuel Golubchuk, Canada’s Terri Schiavo, Advances "Futile Care"

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 13, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Battle Over Samuel Golubchuk, Canada’s Terri Schiavo, Advances "Futile Care" Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 13,

Ottawa, Canada ( — The battle over Samuel Golubchuk has ignited a euthanasia debate in Canada that some pro-life observers are concerned will advance what they call the futile care theory. That’s the notion that physicians have the right to decide when a patient is beyond help and arbitrarily end treatment — leading to their certain death.

Samuel Golubchuk is an elderly Jewish man who is on life support.

His children are strongly opposed to removing him from a ventilator and feeding tube and have cited Jewish law which forbids such actions depriving people of their right to life.

The children also say that their father would oppose the stopping of lifesaving medical care if he could express his treatment wishes.

However, officials at the medical center’s ICU who are treating Golubchuk have said their wishes don’t matter and are intent on removing his lifesaving care.

Wesley J. Smith, a noted bioethicist and attorney, says euthanasia is becoming less and less about a patient’s "choice" and more about a so-called duty to die.

He said euthanasia advocates "will impose the duty to die, first through futile care theory–which is just beginning now–and then later through more explicitly terminating actions."

He worries cases like Golubchuk’s will advance the notion that doctors or medical bean-counters will have a significant influence over who lives and dies.

Smith says "doctors are presuming the right to terminate Mr. Golubchuk’s life support and have the temerity to claim that they have the right to decide when the burden of treatment outweighs the benefit of being alive."

"If futile care theory prevails, what in the world makes anyone think that the forced removal of people from wanted treatment will stop at the ICU?" Smith concludes. "People who only need feeding tubes will soon be dehydrated (if they are not lethally injected first), and care will be rationed based on other criteria."

Smith says the next step will be the termination of so-called "marginally beneficial care" such as a mammogram for an 80-year-old woman perceived as too old to need such preventative medicine.

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