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S. Korea may legalise 'right to die'
Publication Date : 01-08-2013
Terminally ill patients who have no other medical option but to hang on to life with essential treatment will likely be given the right to die starting next year.
The National Bioethics Committee on Wednesday decided to recommend the government allow dying patients or their families to decide whether to withdraw treatment that is keeping them alive.
A terminal patient can voluntarily forgo life-sustaining treatments by stating how they want to be treated if they can no longer make health care decisions for themselves.
The committee suggested documenting their will through “advance directives” and “physician orders for life-sustaining treatment”, so that doctors could stop providing treatments as the patients wished. Life-sustaining care includes CPR, artificial respiration, blood filtration and the use of anti-cancer drugs.
However, drugs to control pain, nutrition, water and oxygen should be provided. The plan is expected to go into effect next year at the earliest.
The plan has stirred controversy as many Koreans believe the concept of withdrawing life support is abandoning life.
According to the health ministry, about 250,000 Koreans die every year and most of them end their lives in hospitals. The ministry assumes that of the deaths in Korea, about 30,000 patients were on life-supporting treatments. More than 30 per cent of cancer patients received chemotherapy a month before they died, the National Cancer Centre said.