EFC FILES RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ARGUMENTS IN RASOULI CASE AT SUPREME COURT
Anita Levesque (The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada): OTTAWA– Late last week, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada filed its written arguments with the Supreme Court of Canada in the Cuthbertson v. Rasouli case. The case before the court is about an Ontario man, lying in a coma due to complications after minor brain surgery. Machines are required to keep him alive. The doctors in charge of this man’s care determined the time had come to remove him from the medical equipment that is keeping him alive. The family disagrees.
“The Rasouli family are a people of deep religious faith who want to keep their loved one alive. They have stated in their testimony before the courts in Ontario that Mr. Rasouli knows who they are, is responsive to their actions, and has both an understanding that access to health care is a personal right for Canadian citizens and a religious belief that a person is entitled to remain alive until all signs of life are gone,” explains EFC Vice President and General Legal Counsel Don Hutchinson.
“At the heart of this case are questions of the value and dignity of human life, such as ‘What does it mean to be human?’ and ‘What forms the framework of our understanding of the nature of human life?’. “
“The principles of Canadian society that were in place when our universal health care system was established in the 1960s and that informed the enactment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 are about living together in society, being our ‘brothers’ (and sisters’) keeper and the requisite importance of freedom as part of the Canadian understanding of the value of human life and living together in a shared society. What it means to be human is inextricably linked with and inspired by our societal and individual religious, moral and philosophical beliefs. This case is about Mr. Rasouli; and, it is about much more. It is about how we, as Canadians, make common decisions in a religiously plural and multi-cultural society.”
EFC Legal Counsel Faye Sonier adds, “When someone is in a coma and another person is appointed as their substitute decision maker, there is a legal expectation that the values and beliefs that the person knows the incapable person held when capable are those which are to be considered and acted upon in the way the incapacitated person would act if still capable. This knowledge, including awareness of the underlying religious or philosophical beliefs of the individual, must be taken into consideration and respected by the substitute decision maker and by the doctors determining medical treatment. This is not about the family versus the doctors. This is about recognizing the right of the patient (or his substitute decision maker) 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.”
“The role of religious or conscientious beliefs must be a point of concern for all Canadians who may find their own beliefs — or those of members of their family — at risk of being under-valued or even dismissed as they attempt to navigate the complexities of the Canadian health-care system and our culture’s views of what makes a life worth living. And what does not,” continues Sonier.
Hutchinson concludes, “Such cases about life and death are about the meaning, dignity and value of human life; and who decides when that life, if ever, is no longer worthy of our care. In addition to being legal questions, these are deeply theological and philosophical questions that focus on what norms and principles shape our laws as a society and a nation. The EFC is intervening in this case because assessing and commenting on these issues in a way that draws together the theological, philosophical and legal considerations that are applicable is one of the things that we exist to do; facilitating these kinds of conversations for our affiliate denominations and ministries that engage in the same issues with the millions of Canadians who attend their churches, and expressing that in the jurisprudential language expected by the courts.”
The EFC’s written legal arguments can be found here.