Gov’t makes it easier to pull the plug on loved ones

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Gov’t makes it easier to pull the plug on loved ones

On Sunday, Korea’s Health Ministry said that it will ease regulations on ending life-sustaining treatment for terminally ill patients.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said that it will allow patients to stop receiving life-sustaining treatment when it is approved by the spouse, parents and offspring, reducing the amount of family members that are required to give approval.

The existing law stipulates that “all members of the patient’s family must unanimously express an intention” to end the life-sustaining treatment of patients. Under this law, all lineal relatives, including grandchildren and great grandchildren, need to give consent to end life-sustaining treatments.

Otherwise, a patient needs to sign a 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.

The revision will take effect on March 28, 2019.

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, while 8,189 women chose to do so.

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.

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