By John-Henry Westen

WINNIPEG, December 12, 2007 ( – The Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench reserved its decision yesterday in the case of a 84-year-old Orthodox Jewish man in hospital from whom doctors want to withdraw food and fluids and a ventilator. 

After a fall in 2003, Golubchuk suffered a brain injury but was still able to communicate. He was sent to Grace Hospital in Winnipeg in October after contracting pneumonia. Doctors have determined that he is not responding to their treatment and thus have decided to pull the feeding tube and ventilator even though he is still benefiting from them.

The Winnipeg Free Press reports that when the family objected and threatened legal action the hospital actually moved the date of removal of the feeding tube from December 1 up to November 30.  “The doctors and hospital deny that, but Kravetsky said he had to argue with one of the doctors—and had to pass his cellphone over to a court registrar—to persuade them not to pull the life support while he was in court seeking an injunction on Nov. 30. Justice Perry Schulman granted that injunction a few minutes later,” reports the paper.

In an affidavit, local Rabbi Y. Charytan, said Orthodox Jews believe “life must be extended as long as possible and we are not allowed to hasten death.”Charytan said he told hospital officials that if they remove life support from Golubchuk it “is a sin and not acceptable.”

Neil Kravetsky, the family’s lawyer, said of the family that, “Their view is you don’t hasten death, period. Where there is life there is life.”  He added: “To pull you physically off these machines, takes the patient’s consent.  To do otherwise, is murder. I really believe this. I don’t see the difference if (a doctor) came in and put a pillow over his face.”

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is concerned that cost-containment is behind the decision to remove the ventilator and the feeding tube in this case. “Whether he will fully recover or not, the family hopes that he will survive and their religious belief opposes any act that might cause his death,” Schadenberg told

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition agrees with the family position in relation to the feeding tube. If fluids and food are not provided he will die of dehydration and not his underlying medical condition. Schadenberg stated: “We consider fluids and food to be basic care and not medical treatment and therefore obligatory until the provision of fluid and food stops providing any benefit.” In this case it appears that his body is not shutting down and he is benefitting from the provision of fluid and food.