Seminar at hospital focuses on right to die

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Seminar at hospital focuses on right to die

Retired professionals, monks and experts gathered yesterday to express their opposition to life-sustaining medical treatment.

About 300 people participated yesterday in a seminar called “From suffering death to meeting death,” held at Severance Hospital in Seoul.

After the seminar, the participants signed advance health care directives, saying they would reject medical treatment to prolong their lives if they have a terminal illness.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare discussed legalizing the suspension of life-sustaining medical treatment in July, but has not yet reached a consensus on the issue.

“I think life-sustaining medical treatment is a burden to everybody - doctor, patient and children,” said Lee Seong-rak, 71, the honorary president of Gachon University of Medicine and Science. “To reduce the burden, society should take action to extend advance medical directives to others.”

Park Sang-gyun, 73, a resident of Ilsan, Gyeonggi, said he signed it because he doesn’t want to burden his children.

Choe Chul-ju, 66, a columnist, said that he will persuade his children not to sustain his life when he is facing death. “I signed the directive to let people know that there are many people dying painfully and that [painful deaths] should no longer continue,” Choe said.

Most participants are members of associations for retired experts and professionals, such as Korea Golden Age Forum or Well-Dying - which expresses the opposite of well-being.

The directive states they will not accept any medical intervention in the following cases: loss of consciousness with no possibility of regaining it and terminal illness.

They keep the original document and a copy is sent to the hospital in the event of an emergency.

Son Myong-se, dean of the Graduate School for Public Health, said, “If a patient has the document, there will be no civil suit. One family filed a civil suit against Severance Hospital, which continued to treat their grandmother to prolong her life.”

The family argued that the hospital, which was against assisted suicide, put their grandmother in pain. The grandmother died in January this year.

By Shin Sung-sik []
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