TORONTO, Ont. January 31, 2008 – The Catholic Civil Rights League ( today commented on new policy guidelines issued by the Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons on the decision to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment. According to the guidelines, the final decision rests with the physician, and can be made over the family’s objections.

The League upholds Church teaching that such decisions should be made by the patient and his or her family, in consultation with doctors, clergy and others who can help determine whether the treatment is of any real benefit. In cases where treatment can licitly be withheld or stopped, the family is usually in the best position to know and support the patients’ wishes. Medical personnel, especially in large hospitals, are unlikely to even know the person, but may be under some pressure to contain costs and defer to quality of life judgments, which are bound to be somewhat subjective despite being made with good intentions.

As the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) notes, leaving the final decision to the doctor could have serious implications for vulnerable members of society, such as people with disabilities, the frail elderly and people with chronic conditions. “The quality of life of vulnerable people is often viewed as negative based on false ideas or ideologies related to the life experience of these people,” the EPC said in a statement. “We predict that many people will be denied basic end-of-life care due to conditions that are not related to their actual prognosis.”

In Winnipeg recently, relatives of 84-year-old Samuel Golubchuk challenged the decision of Grace Hospital physicians to discontinue the man’s life support.

Mr. Golubchuk suffered brain injury in June 2003 after a fall, but could still communicate and understand. He was admitted to Grace Hospital last October with pneumonia and pulmonary hypertension and was placed on life support Nov. 3. The case is still before the courts.

Dr. Bill Pope, registrar of the Manitoba College of Physicians and Surgeons, told The Winnipeg Free Press that if the judge rules in favour of a patient’s family, the College will review their end-of-life regulations.

More resources about respect for life are available on the League’s website as well as through the EPC.

About CCRL
Catholic Civil Rights League ( assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244;