Under new medical guidelines on mercy killing, South Korean doctors will now be allowed to remove life support from terminally ill. But only after confirming their wish to die, officials announced on Wednesday.
The guidelines were drawn up by a committee of 18 representatives from parliament, civic groups and the judicial, religious and medical communities, the health ministry said.
AdvertisementThey agreed that doctors could stop prolonged life-sustaining treatment, based only on prior written or oral statements from patients.
But they failed to agree on mercy killing for mentally disabled and other patients who cannot express their wish, the ministry said in a statement.
Ministry officials said the guidelines would be used to enact a new law on euthanasia, although no timetable has been set for when parliament would debate the legislation.
A 77-year-old brain-dead woman died in January, 202 days after being taken off life support in the country's first case of legal euthanasia.
The woman was declared brain-dead in February 2008 after she fell into a coma while undergoing a lung examination. Three months later her children filed a court petition after doctors rejected their request to remove the life support system.
Her children said that artificially prolonging her life when she was brain-dead was "painful and meaningless".
A court approved the family's request but doctors appealed. The Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision in favour of the children in May last year.
The case fuelled debate in a country where some still oppose mercy killing because of deep-rooted Confucianist beliefs. In 2007 a father was given a four-year suspended jail term for removing a respirator from his brain-dead son.