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Statement Against the Legislation of a Law on So-Called 'Dignified Death' Recognized as an Euthanasia

 

 

Nowadays there is a heated controversy in our society, caused by the recent decision of the Supreme Court of Korea in favor of the removal of the instrument for artificial respiration of a Mrs. Kim, who is de facto in a vegetative state. For all that the decision of the Supreme Court was not meant to put an intentional end to the life of Mrs. Kim, but to interrupt the meaningless treatment for prolongation of life, quite a few media and medical circles regarded it as a decision for a so-called 'dignified death', insisting that the removal of the instrument was the practice of the 'dignified death'. However, contrary to their intention, Mrs. Kim still survives with self respiration after the practice of a so-called 'dignified death'. We are struck dumb with astonishment by the reactions of our society to this situation: they are saying "Why is she still alive?" Facing up such a reaction, the Catholic Church in Korea is fully aware of the commitment to express her opinion on the recent controversy over the so-called 'dignified death', deploring the fact that the hitherto controversy has been intending to the euthanasia resulting in the intentional death of a patient.

 

1. We are against the legislation of the so-called 'Dignified Death Act', because the terminology of so-called 'dignified death', which is en vogue recently in our society, is just an embellished concept in favor of the euthanasia. By euthanasia "is understood an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Euthanasia, 1980, II), thus the critical criterion of the euthanasia should be the presence of the intention of death. Therefore, we can say that the so-called 'dignified death', heavily disputed in our society now, meant de facto the euthanasia resulting in an intentional death of a patient, since we witness some of medical circles and media, confused and skeptical about the survival of Mrs. Kim after the removal of the instrument for artificial respiration, regarding the decision of the Supreme Court as a cause for a 'dignified death'. Therefore we are sternly against the legislation of the law on 'dignified death', alias dictus the law on euthanasia.

 

2. We insist on the prudence of the public not to use the expression of 'dignified death' for the interruption of the meaningless treatment for prolongation of life. The usage of the expression of 'dignified death' is inclining to the intention of a death. They are using the expression of 'dignified death' as a camouflage to evade an ethical responsibility, even though they intend the death of a patient. In the end, the expression of 'dignified death' can cause a confusion to the public, since it can be misinterpreted as an approval of the euthanasia. Not a single action directly intending a death can be justified or legalized.

 

3. We respect the decision of a terminally-ill patient not to use the instrument for artificial respiration, even if he or she needs it as he or she cannot make sufficient respiratory effort on his or her own. The instrument may not be used in accordance with the previously manifested will of the patient. "When inevitable death is imminent in spite of the means used, it is permitted in conscience to take the decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life" (Declaration on Euthanasia, IV). However, such a refusal should not be made with the intention of a preemptive death. The removal of the instrument for the artificial respiration means not the practice of a 'dignified death' with the intention of a death, but the interruption of the mechanical treatment of a patient for the prolongation of his or her life. Nevertheless, a terminally-ill patient should be treated with all proper medical cares, even if the instrument for artificial respiration is not in use. Artificial feeding and hydration belong to the basic medical treatments, which should be taken for granted.

 

4. We assert that the permission of the 'interruption of the treatment for the prolongation of life' in accordance with the will of the patient depends on his or her spontaneity of physiological function. It is against the nature that a terminally-ill patient should use an instrument for artificial respiration when he or she shows no sign of the recovery of self respiration. On the contrary, when a patient manifests a physiological function of ingestion and digestion, the artificial feeding and hydration are very natural treatments. In this regard, it doesn't matter whether the patient has a clear consciousness or not. We are strongly asserting that the artificial feeding and hydration should never be interrupted in such a context.

 

5. The true dignity for a patient in his or her final days comes from a peaceful death, accepting the inevitable death naturally. In other words, it is an inalienable principle for the respect of human dignity that a process of death must be in accordance with the nature. The interruption of the treatment with intention to death necessarily hinders a natural death, and thus deprives a human being of his or her dignity in its entirety. Therefore, our society will fall into the culture of death when such a interruption is supported by means of a law. In solidarity with all the people of good will, we will initiate an active campaign against the legislation of a law on the so-called 'dignified death' promoting the euthanasia.

 

 

July 8, 2009

 

+ Gabriel Chang Bong-hun

Bishop of Cheongju

President

Committee for Bioethics of the CBCK

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