Report: Court Allowed Patient to 'Pull the Plug'

A Tel Aviv court two weeks ago gave permission to a hospital in central Israel to remove a sick person from a respirator, reports said.

Moshe Cohen,

Hospital (archive)
Hospital (archive)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

A Tel Aviv court two weeks ago gave permission to a hospital in central Israel to remove a sick person from a respirator, it was reported Tuesday. The patient was suffering from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, a terminal condition that progressively ruins victims' muscles and internal systems.

Despite the fact that he was on a respirator and was unable to move at all, the patient had full use of his faculties, and was aware of his situation. He was able to communicate to those around him with the use of special technology that “read” his eye blinks. The patient had been bedridden for seven years, but was conscious and aware of his surroundings.

It was the patient himself who asked that doctors “pull the plug,” but hospital staff refused, because the patient did not fit the criteria for Israel's “mercy killing” law. That law, passed in 2005, allows family and hospital officials to decide to remove patients from a respirator when they are basically in a vegetative state.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, reviewing the situation, gave his consent for the patient to be removed from the respirator, after the man's attorneys petitioned for his inclusion in the mercy-killing statute. The court, which authorized the decision, gave permission for publication of the case after a request by Ha'aretz.

A new law proposed by Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah would allow patients diagnosed with an incurable disease and expected to live less than six months to end their life with medical assistance. The bill is opposed by religious and right-wing MKs.


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