State program allows 47 patients to die without life-sustaining treatment

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-01-24 14:26 Updated : 2018-01-24 14:26
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SEOUL, Jan. 24 (Aju News) -- In a three-month state pilot program on "death with dignity", known as spontaneous euthanasia, 54 patients with no hope of recovery have been allowed to reject medical care for life prolongation, health authorities said Wednesday.

Out of 107 terminally ill or dying patients who applied for "death with dignity", 54 have rejected any life-sustaining treatment out of their own volition or on consent from relatives, leading to the actual deaths of 47, and the other still alive, according to health ministry data.

For three months, five designated medical centers have received applications from 9,336 people unrelated to death under the pilot program that expired on January 15.

The program was aimed at minimizing public confusion before the so-called "well-dying" bill takes effect on February 4. Health officials say the number of applicants was far higher than anticipated. Previous surveys showed that many old people supported their own choice to die if they were in an irremediable situation. 

The proposed bill allows patients with incurable diseases to reject any life-sustaining treatment such as CPR, artificial respiration and cancer-fighting drugs when they clarify their clear intention in written statements while still being sentient.

If they are unconscious, doctors can stop such treatment on consent from two family members who should testify that the patients wanted "death with dignity". When it is impossible to figure out what the patients think, it requires unanimous consent from all family members and parental consent in the case of minors. If a patient has no family, a hospital bioethics committee can make a decision.