J Korean Med Assoc.  2012 Dec;55(12):1178-1187. 10.5124/jkma.2012.55.12.1178.

Court decisions on withdrawal of life sustaining treatment and related problems associated with legalization

  • 1Departments of Medical Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. jhk@amc.seoul.kr


The development of life sustaining treatment technology including artificial ventilation has given us the moral problem, considering the human dignity and futility of medical treatment, until when these treatments could be given to terminally ill patients. In Korea, there were two supreme court decisions a significant impacts on the withdrawal of life sustaining treatment. After these decisions, Korean medical society has developed a guideline for advance directives and has also established a voluntary hospital ethics committee. The patient's right of self- determination right and the paternalistic approach of medicine should be balanced at an optimal level, because benefits of medical advances should be adjusted to take into account the burden of life prolongations. Decision making always has been difficult because related to ethical values, and there a broad spectrum of value-laden attitudes within Korean society. The legalization of end-of-life care should be from the respect of the professional autonomy of medical society. Under these considerations, we should supply alternative methods like hospice care, which can help to manage the withdrawal of life support appropriately, and also make an effort to relieve the economical burden of patients.


Advance directives; Personal autonomy; Hospices; Clinical ethics committee; Withholding treatment

MeSH Terms

Advance Directives
Decision Making
Ethics Committees
Ethics Committees, Clinical
Hospice Care
Hospitals, Voluntary
Medical Futility
Patient Rights
Personal Autonomy
Professional Autonomy
Societies, Medical
Supreme Court Decisions
Terminally Ill
Withholding Treatment
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