TEL AVIV (Oct. 25)
A Tel Aviv court ruled Thursday that a “very senior physician” could remove a life-support system upon the wishes of a terminally ill patient, and that the physician involved would not face legal consequences, even if the patient were unconscious or not in control of his faculties when the actual need arose.
The decision favored Benny Eyal, a 50-year-old patient who is in the advanced stages of multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease which is incurable.
A very senior physician would mean the head of a department or hospital director. In this case, the physician might be Dr. Nachman Wilensky, head of the Yad Eliahu nursing home where Eyal is confined.
Wilensky told Israel Radio that he has informed the patient of the court’s decision and that he would act accordingly. Eyal has begged to be allowed to die in dignity and peace rather than attached to machines and in distress.
His request was supported by his wife, who has thanked the court for its understanding of her husband’s suffering. He is almost completely paralyzed and can barely speak or eat.
According to legal sources, while the court’s decision refers only to Eyal’s case, it can be used as a precedent in future cases where a mentally competent patient asks not to be linked to life-sustaining machinery.
Judge Goren likened his landmark decision to “plowing the first furrow in virgin soil.”
It does not, however, cover cases where the relatives of a terminally ill person request that the patient already attached to a life-support system be removed from it. Legally, that would be actively abetting a suicide.