SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Korea Bizwire) – The Ministry of Health and Welfare has announced it is temporarily allowing deathbed patients to choose whether to continue medical care for life prolongation or not this year, in preparation for the new so-called ‘well-dying’ hospice law entering effect next year.
The decision by the health ministry means that from Monday of this week until January 15, dying patients will be able to take their medical treatment options into their own hands, according to officials at the ministry on Sunday.
Medical care for life extension often focuses on prolonging the life of a patient, rather than treating illness, sometimes against the will of patients.
Following criticism and debate, a new hospice law has been put in place which will enter into effect officially in February.
Under the new law, terminally ill patients whose health status has been confirmed by a doctor and a medical specialist will have the right to stop or skip CPR, hemodialysis, anticancer drugs and the use of a respirator.
While patients must sign an agreement to confirm that they are opting out of medical treatment, decisions for those who are unconscious will be made by their family members, either with the help of doctors or by reaching a unanimous agreement.
Advance directives can be written by anyone older than 19 years of age regardless of their medical condition. These directives can, later in life, serve as evidence of the individual’s medical treatment preferences.
Dying patients without advance directives can sometimes write a plan for their medical care for life extension after they are admitted, an option that is available at a number of hospitals around the country at the moment including Korea University Guro Hospital, Seoul National University Hospital, Severance Hospital and Jeju National University Hospital.
Advance directives can be written during the trial period between October and January before the new hospice law takes effect in February, and will be entered into the official registration system and be given legal authority to cease some of the medical treatment for life extension.
As data from March released by the national health policy research institute revealed that only 15.6 percent of the general public, 33.6 percent of the medical staff and 37.2 percent of patients and their guardians were aware of the new hospice law, the Ministry of Health and Welfare is poised to raise awareness of the new legislation during the next three months.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)