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Hospital ordered to pay family in first ‘right to die with dignity’ case

A local court ordered a Seoul hospital to pay 40 million won ($35,500) in compensation to the family of a patient who died last year after winning the country’s first legal battle for the right to “die with dignity,” court officials said Monday.

The 78-year-old woman fell into a vegetative state after suffering brain damage from heavy loss of blood while undergoing a bronchial endoscopy in February 2008 at Severance Hospital in western Seoul. She died early last year after the country’s top court recognized the patient’s right to die with dignity and ordered the hospital to remove the respirator in the first case of its kind in the country.

The family sued the hospital a month after she fell into a coma, demanding 140 million won in compensation for malpractice and misdiagnosis and failure to explain to the patient the full risks involved in the medical procedure she would undergo.

The Seoul Western District Court said the hospital had only talked to the patient’s daughter about the risks, violating the requirement that it inform the patients directly.

The court, however, rejected the family’s claim that the hospital was responsible for the patient falling into a coma by making mistakes during the endoscopy, citing lack of evidence.

The patient had survived for 201 days after being taken off the respirator, surprising doctors who said she would only be able to live for a few hours. 

(Yonhap News)