Hassan Rasouli & The Right to Consent
The article about Hassan Rasouli hit close to home. [“Doctors fight to remove man from life support”]. Thirteen years ago, I too was on a ventilator and a feeding tube. This was after I was paralyzed by a disease and all four of my doctors felt that I should be removed from life support. Fortunately, my wife requested that one of the doctors ask me first. Although the only thing I could move was my eyelids, I somehow communicated that I was not giving consent.
The doctor who spoke with me told me that there was no chance of recovery, “not even one chance in a million.” He said that if I lived, I would always be respirator dependent and a quadriplegic. Instead, I eventually lost my paralysis and even went back to work. My doctors, excellent doctors with years of experience, were wrong.
According to the article, there is a dispute over whether Mr. Rasouli can communicate. Is he gesturing a “thumbs up” or are his gestures “the automatic reflexes of an irreversibly unconscious man?” When I was first paralyzed, other people attempted to communicate with me by pointing to an alphabet board. Like Mr. Rasouli, my eyes were unfocused. For this reason, I could not see the board and therefore could not make a meaningful response. Perhaps Mr. Rasouli could be asked to move one finger for “yes” and do nothing for “no?” Maybe there is another way he can communicate?
The article also describes how doctors in Canada want the right to withdraw treatment without first getting patient consent. If my doctor had not asked for my consent, I would likely be dead. I hope that your Supreme Court upholds your right of consent.
Jerry L. Jacobson
Glasgow, MT USA