Terminally Ill Patient Refuses Life Support in Pilot Program

  • By Kim Sung-mo

    November 22, 2017 12:25

    A terminally ill patient has chosen death for the first time since a trial run of end-of-life care was launched before a law letting terminally ill patients refuse life-support takes effect in February.

    This is the first such case since the Supreme Court in 2009 allowed the family of a woman who had been in a vegetative state to remove her life support.

    The man, who was in his 50s, had been treated for gastrointestinal cancer at a general hospital that is participating in the trial project, and died last week. He had signed the option about a month earlier.

    Medical staff therefore did not put him on a respirator, carry out CPR or hemodialysis, or administer anticancer drugs when it became clear that he was dying. A doctor said, "He was able to communicate when we explained the stages of end-of-life care and proactively expressed his desire to have life support removed."

    The trial program, which has been running since Oct. 23, includes advising people to write a living will and sign up for an end-of-life option, and helps terminally ill patients make their own decision.

    Anyone can write a letter of intent, but only terminally ill patients can lay out a palliative end-of-life program with the help of doctors. So far 1,648 people have written living wills, and seven terminally ill patients have made concrete plans, according to the ministry.

    The law on dying with dignity was finally legislated on Jan. 17, 2016 after many twists and turns.

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