SEOUL, Nov. 25 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea’s health ministry said Sunday it will ease regulations on ending life-sustaining treatment for terminally ill patients, helping them better prepare for death with dignity.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare said it will allow patients to end their life-sustaining treatment when approved by the spouse, parents and offspring, reducing the scope of family members that are required to give approval.
The existing law stipulates that “all members of the patient’s family have unanimously expressed an intention” to end the life-sustaining treatment of patients.
Under this law, all lineal relatives, including grandsons and great grandsons, need to give consent on ending the life-sustaining treatments.
Otherwise, a patient needs to sign his or her letter of intent in advance or more than two members of the family must testify that the patient always wanted to end life-sustaining treatment ahead of falling unconscious.
The revision will take effect March 28, 2019.
South Korea implemented the act on hospice and palliative care and decisions on life-sustaining treatment for patients nearing the end of their lives in February.
As of Oct. 3, 20,742 patients suspended life-sustaining treatment under the rule. Males accounted for 12,544, with females taking up 8,189.
Of the figure, only 0.7 percent signed the letter in advance when healthy, while another 33 percent prepared the document after falling ill.
For the remaining 66.3 percent, the decision to suspend the life-prolonging treatment was made by family members, indicating that it is necessary for the government to ease regulations on winning family approval.