NATIONAL

53,900 opt out of life-prolonging treatment since adoption of Death with Dignity Act

By Kim Arin
  • Published : Jul 11, 2019 - 17:07
  • Updated : Jul 11, 2019 - 17:22

A year and five months since the enactment of Death with Dignity Act, nearly 54,000 have decided to opt out of life-prolonging treatments, according to government data.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Wednesday the number of individuals who either withheld or withdrew from receiving life-prolonging treatment totaled 53,900 as of June 30. The end-of-life care legislation allowing terminally ill patients to abandon life-prolonging medical care went into effect on Feb. 4, 2018.

Life-prolonging treatment refers to medical procedures that delay the process of dying with no significant chance of resulting in recovery from or alleviation of suffering.


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In addition to four treatments categorized as life prolonging measures -- CPR, artificial ventilation, hemodialysis and chemotherapy -- the ministry expanded the scope in March to include procedures such as extracorporeal life support, transfusion and vasopressor therapy.

Terminally ill patients can withhold or withdraw consent for receiving life-prolonging treatment through a written statement.

In cases where the patient lacks the capacity to make a decision, two or more family members can testify that the patient would not wish to prolong treatment on his or her behalf. Suspension of life-prolonging treatment for patients in an incapacitated state requires consent by all members of the patient’s family.

As of end-June, 67.1 percent of all withheld or withdrawn life-prolonging treatments had been decided by the patient’s family.

Only 1 percent of the cases involved patients who had decided to refuse or halt treatment in advance through a letter of intent, with the remaining 31.9 percent comprising patients who made the decision mid-treatment.

Under the law, any individual aged 19 or older, regardless of their medical condition, can submit a letter of intent on life-prolonging treatment at a designated facility.

Over 250,000 people have submitted their written intent thus far. Women accounted for 70 percent of total submitters, at 179,056, a number greatly exceeding that of men, at 76,969.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)