[EDITORIALS]Fostering death with dignity

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[EDITORIALS]Fostering death with dignity

The National Cancer Center has proposed enacting a special law that would assure death with dignity.
At a symposium yesterday, the center released the results of its study on a model hospice project for handling terminally ill cancer patients.
According to the two-year study, around 30,000 terminal cancer patients a year quit their jobs and lose most of their savings. Each year, the study said, 10,000 households that have cancer patients move to cheaper homes because of the financial burden of treating the patients.
It found that only 3,266 terminal cancer patients, or 5.1 percent of the 64,000 annual cancer deaths, use the hospice system or specialized medical agencies to ease the pain of the disease.
But, according to the center’s poll, 57.4 percent of those surveyed said that they would want to use the hospice system to help them have a dignified death.
Eight out of 10 respondents said that the government should include hospice services in its health insurance program.
The survey clearly demonstrates the patients’ changed view. Eight out of 10 terminal patients said, “It is good to stop life-extending hospital treatment that is medically meaningless.”
Indeed, the patients do not want medical treatment that extends their lives aimlessly through artificial means.
A dignified death is a criterion that can measure a society’s quality of life. As well-being is important, so is “well-dying.”
France enacted legislation last year that can be translated as a “law concerning the last hours of life.”
The law guarantees terminal patients’ rights to choose a dignified death and reinforces welfare and medical services for them until their death.
In Korea, around 150,000 people die in pain each year from such diseases as cancer, stroke and liver problems. And many of them are not covered by the health insurance.
We ask the government to increase the number of facilities to enable patients to die with dignity in hospitals and expand health insurance coverage so that hospice services can be included in the government-run insurance system.
Furthermore, the government will have to consider legislation guaranteeing patients’ rights to death, as France did. Dying with dignity is an issue that involves everyone.
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