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Supreme Court Upholds Terminal Patient`s Right to Die

Posted May. 21, 2009 21:11,   


The Supreme Court yesterday upheld a lower court`s ruling on a terminally ill patient`s right to die in a historic decision.

The court ruled that a patient should have the "right to die with dignity" if he or she can breathe only with the help of a respirator, has no possibility of recovery, and has explicitly asked for a stop to all treatment.

The ruling is expected to ignite controversy since it suggested guidelines that could be used as a yardstick to determine whether to stop life support.

The court said doctors can stop treatment without performing legal procedures if the guidelines are met. As the Supreme Court supports the right to die with dignity, lawmakers are expected to rush to pass a euthanasia bill on guidelines for the halt of life support and safeguards to prevent abuse.

The verdict ended a lawsuit filed against Yonsei Severance Hospital by a patient who later fell into a permanent vegetative state and her family members to get the patient off life support.

“The patient should be removed from the artificial life support system,” the ruling said.

The 9-4 verdict had the support of Supreme Court Chief Justice Lee Yong-hun.

The court said, “When it`s clear that a patient will definitely die over the short term and that he or she is incapable of recovering consciousness or bodily functions, he or she could be considered to be in a dying process. Life support for such a patient only violates the dignity and value of a human being.”

“When we consider the opinions of medical experts, (the patient) is in an irrecoverable phase of death and had frequently said she didn`t want to live on the respirator before the coma began. We can guess that she doesn`t support being kept on life support.”

The relatives of the patient welcomed the decision, saying, “The ruling reflects the people’s desire for the dignity of life.”

The hospital also held a news conference and said, “Immediately after the ruling is officially announced, we’ll decide to stop life support for the patient after reflecting the opinions of her family and the hospital`s ethics committee.”

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