(VIDEOS & PHOTOS IN EXTENDED ARTICLE)
With tremendous support from the community, the family of Yochai Shalom Nethanel Ouanounou won a crucial victory in a Toronto court on Wednesday, when they convinced a judge to issue an interim injunction to prevent doctors at Humber River Hospital from taking Ouanounou off of life support R”L.
Yochai Shalom Nethanel, 25, is breathing with the help of a respirator, after suffering a cardiac arrest brought on by a severe asthmatic attack on Septempber 27. Doctors say he is clinically brain dead and thus want to “pull the plug,” removing him from essential life support. A death certificate has already been issued, in line with the generally accepted position of the Ontario medical community that the statutory definition of death is cessation of brain functions.
Ouanounou’s family say he is breathing, his heart is beating perfectly and is therefore very much alive under Jewish law. “Shalom and traditional Orthodox Judaism does not accept brain death as death,” the family argued.
“Under Jewish law, and in accord with Shalom’s beliefs, Shalom is alive and the application of the brain death criteria expressly violate Shalom’s religious beliefs and thus discriminate against him based on his religion,” read a statement provided by Nissim (Max) Ouanounou, the young man’s father.
In a tremendous Kiddush Hashem, hundreds of members of the Toronto Jewish community packed the courthouse at 330 University Avenue, as a show of support for the family. On Tuesday afternoon, the family and askonim began circulating a letter (See Below) urging the community to attend, with the Haskama of many Toronto Rabbonim. Amazingly, an overflowing crowd turned out just hours later, for the hearing at 10 AM on Wednesday. The court realized they would not be able to accommodate the audience and moved the hearing to a larger courtroom, which was filled to capacity as well.
Baruch Hashem the court granted a temporary injunction, ordering the hospital to continue providing Yochai Shalom Nethanel with life support until the matter is resolved.
Following the decision, the Ouanounou family and friends gathered for a heartfelt Kumzitz in Yochai Shalom Nethanel’s hospital room, led by singers Yaakov Shwekey and Shlomo Simcha and musician Yanky Katina. Another Kumzitz took place Tuesday night in the hospital, which provided the family with much needed Chizzuk for the difficult day ahead.
It is unclear when the next court hearing will take place, but the court will then be asked to confirm what Ouanounou’s family considers Yochai Shalom Nethanel’s fundamental right to life based on his Jewish religion.
In debating that issue, the court will be asked consider far-reaching implications regarding the definition of death and how much deference is granted to a patient’s religious beliefs, said Charles Wagman, a lawyer representing the Vaad Harabonim of Toronto and the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada.
Please be mispallel for Yochai Shalom Nethanel ben Rivkah.
(Nat Golden – YWN)