The family of a Toronto man won a court challenge when a Toronto Judge issued an interim injunction ensuring that Shalom Ouanounou (25) will not have his ventilator withdrawn.
According to the Canadian Jewish News:
Ouanounou, 25, is breathing with the help of a respirator, after suffering a cardiac arrest brought on by an asthmatic attack on Sept. 27. Doctors say he is brain dead and want to remove him from life support. A death certificate has already been issued.
Ouanounou’s family say he is breathing, his heart is beating and that “Shalom and traditional Orthodox Judaism does not accept brain death as death.”
“Under Jewish law, and in accord with Shalom’s beliefs, Shalom is alive and the application of the brain death criteria expressly violate Shalom’s religious beliefs and thus discriminate against him based on his religion,” read a statement provided by Max Ouanounou, the young man’s father.
Hugh Scher, the lawyer for the Ouanounou family, told the National Post:
Laws allowing loved ones to demand continued treatment of the brain-dead for religious reasons already exist south of the border in New Jersey, New York state, California and Illinois, he said.
And it does not matter that there is a difference of opinion on the issue among Jewish leaders and scholars; what is important under human-rights law is an individual’s convictions.
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Mark Handleman, a lawyer for the Ouanounou family told the National Post:
“We do many things in our multicultural society to reflect the firmly held beliefs of all members,”
“Now you have a person at his most vulnerable moments. Why is that different than any other accommodation?”
The Judge ordered the hospital to continue providing medical treatment until a full hearing can be heard. The timeline for that hearing is unknown. The hearing will consider the deference that should be granted to a patient’s religious beliefs concerning the definition of brain death.
Hugh Scher is also representing the family of Taquisha McKitty (27) who was declared brain dead by doctors at the William Osler Health system in Brampton Ontario. McKitty’s family are arguing that Taquisha was prematurely declared brain dead, and is alive.
The Vaad Harabonim of Toronto and the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada are intervening in the case.