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Scenes From Korea`s 1st Official Case of Euthansia

Posted June. 24, 2009 08:57,   


A Dong-A Ilbo reporter visited the sickbed of Kim Ok-gyeong, 77, at Yonsei University Severance Hospital at 11:20 a.m. yesterday.

When the reporter first visited Kim last month, she was at an intensive care unit on a respirator but yesterday, she was breathing on her own.

Under the hospital’s decision to remove life support, Kim’s respirator was taken off at 10:22 a.m., 16 months after she slipped into a coma and seven months after the court accepted the request of Kim’s family to allow her to die.

The ruling that came Nov. 28 last year cleared the way for Korea’s first case of euthanasia.

Unlike the expectation that Kim would die gradually because of difficulty breathing, she was alive and breathing on her own when the Dong-A reporter visited.

A monitor on her left side indicated a heart rate of 95 (the normal range is 60 to 100) and oxygen saturation of 92 percent (the normal level is 96 percent). Kim’s pulse was raised to make up for the shortage of oxygen. Her respiratory rate was also normal at 20.

The hospital transferred Kim to a ward on the 15th floor from the intensive care unit on the ninth floor to take her off her respirator. In attendance were five medical staff, including her doctor Park Moo-seok; Kim’s relatives including her son, daughters and sons-in-law; the attorney representing her family; a minister from a church Kim had attended; and a senior judge from the Seoul Southern District Court, Kim Cheon-soo, who gave the patient the right to die with dignity.

While Kim’s family was watching the patient with a sad look, Kim’s foot was moved a little. Then one of her daughters massaged her foot.

Another daughter said, “Mom, don’t struggle too much. I hope you meet Dad and live happily with him in heaven.”

A deathbed service followed and ended with a song celebrating mothers, moving Kim’s relatives to tears. At 10:22 a.m., her doctor said, “I will take her off the respirator” and removed the respirator and a hose attached to her mouth and nose and shut off the power.

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