According to the program, individuals aged over 19 can submit a written form of their intention to exercise the right to die in the future, if diagnosed by two doctors as terminally ill. The agreement does not mean terminally ill patients will not be provided palliative care to improve life quality until death. The patients instead halt life-sustaining treatment, including CPR, hemodialysis and the use of respirators or anti-cancer drugs, if under severe medical conditions.
Unlike voluntary euthanasia that remains strictly prohibited, end-of-life care does not involve assisted dying measures to help a patient end his or her life.
During the pilot program, 9,336 individuals submitted the form against the use of artificial life-prolonging treatments, according to the Ministry of Welfare, which is in charge of the program. That number is expected to rise, the ministry said.
In South Korea, a highly Confucian society where embracing death is deemed as disrespect for life, the idea of seriously ill people choosing to forgo artificial life-prolonging methods has been uncomfortable for many.
But a rapidly aging population has prompted a shift in the attitude, raising demand for end-of-life care among the elderly.
By Bak Se-hwan (firstname.lastname@example.org)