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Gov’t to give patients the right not to be resuscitated

Jan 17,2018
The Ministry of Health said its three-month trial of a “do not resuscitate” policy, whereby patients or their relatives can ask for life support to be shut down, has resulted in 43 ending their lives by choosing not to rely on medicine or medical equipment.

The policy ran from Oct. 23 to Monday at 15 hospitals.

It will be formally launched on Feb. 4 as the Act on Decisions on Life-sustaining Treatment for Patients in Hospice and Palliative Care or At the End of Life.

During the trial period, hospitals honored the wishes of 43 people to die without receiving any of four types of medical care - CPR, respirator, hemodialysis or anti-cancer drugs.

“The term ‘life-sustaining treatment’ means medical treatment by cardiopulmonary resuscitation, hemodialysis, administering anticancer drugs, and mechanical ventilation to a patient at the end of life, which merely extend the duration,” it says.

The wishes of the 43 patients were either voiced in person or by their families.

Medical staff confirmed the wishes of patients by speaking with as many relatives as possible.

During the trial period in the past three months, 94 people signed the “do not resuscitate” forms in advance, which can be used by hospitals in the future when patients are on their deathbeds.

Additionally, 9,370 people signed interest forms to indicate their desire to learn more about the palliative-care policy.

If a patient’s intention cannot be verified in person, the act states life support can be terminated when “all members of the patient’s family ... unanimously expressed an intention to make a determination to terminate” life support for the patient and one doctor and one medical specialist in the patient’s illness have verified the intention.

In the case of a patient who is a minor, whose intention cannot be determined in person, the minor’s legal representative, either a parent or a person with parental authority, will have to confirm the minor’s intention, the act states.

The practice has already been legalized in other countries for years, including some states in the United States.

The laws on the matter vary by state, but the practice was first legalized in New York in 1988.

BY SHIN SUNG-SIK, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]