07/10/2009, 00.00
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Korean bishops: "death with dignity" is a euphemism for legalizing euthanasia

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
The President of the Committee on Bioethics makes clear that it "is never justified nor legal." A second hospital in Seoul adopts judge’s guidelines for the end of life, in fact allowing the "mercy killing”. The 77 year old woman who was disconnected from life saving machines on June 23 last breathes on her own.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - The concept of "death with dignity" has led the Korean people to “unconsciously accept euthanasia”.  Any act that causes the "direct death" of a person "is never justified nor legal." That’s the tough stance taken by Mgr. Gabriel Chang Bong-hun, President of the South Korean Bishops Conference committee for bioethics, confirming the strong opposition of Catholics to the introduction of "mercy killing" in the country.


The ethics battle on the right to "die with dignity" - a euphemism for euthanasia, according to the bishop – flared up last May, when the South Korean Supreme Court authorized the doctors to pull the plug on the artificial respirator and feeding tubes that were keeping a 77 year old woman alive.  She had been in coma after internal bleeding in a failed endoscope. On June 23, doctors removed the plug, but 17 days later Kim Ok-kyung is still alive.

On July 7 a second hospital in Seoul decided to adopt the guidelines laid down by the courts to allow the detachment of an artificial respirator. Another signal that indicates South Korea openness to the concept of a "dignified death". A spokesman for the Seoul National University Hospital says that it will be applied to patients with cancer, AIDS, brain death and serious chronic illness.  


"We are not against the refusal of the patient - said Msgr. Chang - to remain attached to the respirator, when he/she reaches the last moment of life and want to breathe on their own”.  “However – he clarifies - this refusal [of the respirator] should not be construed as a desire to die. The removal of life support involves the interruption of an artificial prolonging of life in terminal patients. But in any case, the basic medical care should not be interrupted, including the provision of food and water".


In recent weeks representatives from the Catholic world had denounced an incorrect interpretation of the judges’ ruling. For the President of the bishops’ Committee on Bioethics, the true meaning of "death with dignity" is "the acceptance of death in a natural way and closing your eyes in peace", the prelate rejects "the culture of death" which seems to triumph in the Country. In this regard Bishop Chang emphasizes the reaction of the people, "surprised" that the woman in a coma is still alive more than two weeks after the respirator was turned off.

"The center of gravity - the bishop concludes – of the term 'dying with dignity' has moved towards the concept of death; to divert the true significance of the issue the word 'dignity' has been added. But this is merely a euphemism for euthanasia. "
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