Hospital to Go Ahead With Death With Dignity
By Kim Rahn
Severance Hospital in northern Seoul has decided to remove a comatose patient from life-support following last month's Supreme Court decision to allow the family to do so. It will be the first official ``death with dignity'' in Korea.
Officials of the hospital said Wednesday that an ethics committee decided on the cessation of life-support treatment for Kim Ok-kyung, a 77-year-old patient with no chance of recovery.
Doctors will determine when and how to proceed with the equipment removal after a discussion with the family, and the hospital will hold another committee meeting soon about the issue.
Kim lapsed into coma in February last year after excessive bleeding caused by a botched endoscopy operation and has been in a persistent vegetative state since then.
Kim's children filed a suit against the hospital, demanding the removal of life-support, saying she used to oppose keeping people alive with machines if there was no chance of recovery. The top court upheld a high court ruling last month.
According to the hospital's own three-stage guidelines regarding death with dignity, Kim is in the second stage ― a vegetative state where the patient cannot breathe without an artificial respirator. In such cases, the hospital allows the cessation of life-support treatment only when the patient has expressed his or her opinion about death with dignity, the family agrees, and the hospital's ethics committee confirms the decision.
The first stage is when a patient is in a vegetative state but can breathe without machines, while the third stage is a patient who is brain dead with injuries to other organs.
Doctors suspect Kim is unlikely to continue living once the respirator is removed.
``It is meaningful that the hospital decided to accept the court ruling and allow death with dignity for the first time,'' a hospital official said.
The family asked the hospital to proceed with the removal immediately. Lawyer Shin Hyun-ho, representing Kim and the family, said, ``The family demanded the hospital remove the equipment today or tomorrow, but the hospital is delaying without a clear reason. The hospital said earlier that it would do so on June 11 at the latest, so the family has prepared for a funeral on that date. The hospital is not considering the family's suffering.''