Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Everyone's Battle: Following the Golubchuk Case

I've been very busy for the past few months and haven't been able to follow every major story. However, I knew something had happened about a Mr. Golubchuk in Canada, who was very sick and the medical establishment wanted to cease treating him despite his still being very much alive. I recently came across an essay about this by Jonathan Rosenblum (link) and was surprised to learn that almost no Jewish organization had risen to defend Mr. Golubchuk, with the notable exception of Agudath Israel of America. According to Rosenblum:
Click here to read more

Dr. Zacharowicz, who initially entered the case at the urging of Agudath Israel of America, denied the claim of the Winnipeg doctors that Mr. Golubchuk was in any significant pain from any of the treatments being rendered, and noted that his medical charts show no evidence of significant pain management...

Despite the obvious importance of these issues to all Torah Jews, there was no well-organized campaign to aid the Golubchuk family. The Golubchuk children were forced to rely on the services of a dedicated solo practitioner, whose primary expertise is in criminal law, against the hospital's team of corporate attorneys, and have been left to bear the immense legal expenses alone. (Agudath Israel of America was in the process of arranging pro bono research assistance from a major firm at the time of Mr. Golubchuk's passing.) Nor was there any organized effort to counter the hospital's media blitz.
Can it be that the entire Jewish community of the US and Canada were as busy as I was and therefore did not follow the story or intervene in any way? I found that hard to believe so I investigated a little and learned that Rosenblum's account is very misleading (and that is a generous evaluation). Someone who followed this situation closely wrote to me that Rosenblum's account is "patently untrue".

It turns out that this issue generated a good deal of defense and assistance from the Jewish and general community. However, for PR reasons, the defenders of Mr. Golubchuk (which included both Jewish and Christian organizations) chose to frame this issue as one of human rights rather than Jewish rights. Additionally, there was a conscious effort to keep the public activity Canadian, with advisors from the US remaining deep in the background. This was all part of an organized strategy to achieve the best results (which unfortunately did not come about because of Mr. Golubchuk's passing).

In fact, many rabbis and organizations were attempting to assist and advise the Golubchuk family. There were a number of PR efforts (see, for example, this Op-Ed by R. Reuven Bulka in the (Toronto) Globe and Mail: link 1, link 2) and Canadian communal leaders were closely monitoring the situation, even if they didn't agree with every one of Dr. Zacharowicz's (or the Golubchuk family's) conclusions.

Just because a family is in a distressful situation does not mean that they have the final word on what is an appropriate reaction to every article or action related to the subject. It is truly sad if they feel that their father was not adequately defended. However, that should not lead others to reach the same conclusion without objectively evaluating all of the effort that was expended in this matter.

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