By Hilary White

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, June 25, 2008 ( – The daughter of 84-year-old Manitoban Samuel Golubchuk informed friends and supporters earlier today that her father had passed away peacefully in hospital.

Mr. Golubchuk, whose family has been waging a court battle to keep him alive since late last November, was hospitalized for pneumonia in October of 2007.

Neil Kravetsky, the Golubchuk family lawyer, said today, “Mr. Golubchuk won. He didn’t die because they pulled him off life support. He died when his time had come.”

Prior to October 2007, the elderly man had been living in a long-term care facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba when he contracted pneumonia. His pneumonia was cured, but, due to his severely weakened condition, Mr. Golubchuk was unable to return to his home. He became the subject of media attention when the hospital attempted to withdraw basic care, including food, hydration and assistance with breathing through a respirator, in order to “allow him to die”.

Golubchuk’s family argued that killing him by dehydration and starvation would be contrary to his wishes and his religious beliefs as an orthodox Jew who held life to be sacred.

Mr. Golubchuk was not terminally ill and although the hospital doctors claimed he was “barely above a vegetative state”, his family protested that he was conscious and responsive and still the same man they knew and loved. The family obtained an emergency court order to stop the hospital’s plans to dehydrate Golubchuk, which decision was upheld by Justice Perry Schulman of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench after the hospital appealed.

In early June, the doctor who originally refused to treat Mr. Golubchuk called the life-sustaining treatment he was receiving “grotesque”, an “abomination”, “immoral” and “tantamount to torture”. Dr. Anand Kumar, a critical care specialist, resigned from Winnipeg’s Grace Hospital rather than obey a court order to continue treating his patient.

But the family’s lawyer, Neil Kravetsky responded to this, saying, “He’s still living, breathing. His condition isn’t as bad as it was then, when we filed the injunction.”

The family had appealed for help with legal fees in their fight to keep their father from being euthanized. On their website, they said, “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!”

Earlier this month, Jocelyn Downie, Canada’s foremost expert in health law issues and one of Canada’s leading proponents of legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, confirmed that there is no legal right in Canada for doctors to withdraw life-sustaining medical treatment against a patient’s wishes or those of his family.

The fight was not just about their own beloved relative, the Golubchuk family said. In a statement they warned, “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.”

On learning of Mr. Golubchuk’s death by natural causes in hospital, Alex Schadenberg, executive director of Canada’s Euthanasia Prevention Coalition wrote, “The death of Samuel Golubchuk needs to be remembered by the courage that his children Miriam and Percy had in defending his wishes and his faith.”

“Very few parents can say that their children would go this far to protect them.”

Schadenberg said that there needs to continue to be pressure on the Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons, which allows doctors to withdraw treatment, including basic care such as food and water.

“The Manitoba College believes that physicians have the right to decide when to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment. This needs to change,” he said.

Read related coverage:

Golubchuk Injunction Upheld – Winnipeg Hospital Ordered to Keep Patient on Life Support