Over 20,000 Refuse Life-Prolonging Treatment Since Law Change

  • By Kim Soo-hye, Son Ho-young

    October 10, 2018 13:21

    More than 20,000 Koreans have chosen to refuse life-prolonging treatment since the law changed to permit living wills to that effect earlier this year after a three-month trial run.

    The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Tuesday that 20,742 people opted to discontinue life support treatment from February until last Wednesday.

    One out of three patients gave doctors permission to discontinue life support when their illnesses became terminal, and the families of two out of three terminally ill patients chose death with dignity for their loved ones. The rest had made a living will in advance.

    Life-support treatment covers medically assisted procedures to keep late-stage cancer and other terminally ill patients from dying without remedial effects. It includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation, respirators and hemodialysis.

    Yun Young-ho at Seoul National University's College of Medicine said, "The changes are interesting, but the numbers are insufficient to say that death with dignity has taken root in this country."

    Among those who opted to discontinue life support treatment, 99.3 percent made the choice when their illnesses became terminal or their families made the choice on their behalf. Still, only 0.1 percent of the adult population (42.31 million) decide to die with dignity and put it in writing when they are still healthy enough.

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