South Korea Hospital to Appeal Ruling Allowing Removal of Life Support

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 16, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Korea Hospital to Appeal Ruling Allowing Removal of Life Support

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 16
, 2008

Seoul, South Korea ( — A South Korea hospital is appealing a court’s decision from earlier this month allowing the family members of a terminally ill woman to remove her feeding tube and take her off life support. The ruling didn’t allow euthanasia or assisted suicide but prompted pro-life advocates to worry it is a first step.

Severance Hospital said on Wednesday it will appeal the lower district court’s decision to the South Korea Supreme Court.

According to an AFP report, Severance Hospital chief Park Chang-Il told reporters that the hospital would take the case directly to the nation’s highest court and bypass the appeals court.

The 75-year-old woman, identified by the name Kim, supposedly has no chance of recovering and was declared brain-dead in February after she sustained brain damage and fell into a coma following a hospital visit.

The hospital rejected the family’s request to take her life and the family eventually filed a lawsuit to get the hospital to do so.

The initial decision is opening up the Asian nation to concerns that the ruling could lead to assisted suicide or euthanasia, though the ruling itself didn’t legalize either practice.

Wesley J. Smith, an American bioethicist says the woman in the case is "unconscious, not ‘brain dead,’" and challenged mainstream media reports to that effect.

"The issue is about whether life support can be removed from such people, not whether they can be actively killed. Sometimes life support is removed from people in a persistent vegetative state and they don’t die (unless that life support is food and fluids)," he added.

He previously criticized AFP for using misleading terms in its media reports on the case.

In fact, the French news agency, on Wednesday, again said the case would create a so-called right to die — even though that’s not really happening.

"These issues are international and need a consistent use of language and terms," Smith says. "Otherwise, we will have chaos rather than informed and rational ethical debates."

"Indeed, the language of bioethics at the popular level is already so muddled by sloppy language, rank redefinition, and euphemistic argument (‘aid in dying’) that engaging these crucial issues in the public square is already near the point of futility," he concluded.

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