J Korean Med Assoc.  2019 Jul;62(7):369-375. 10.5124/jkma.2019.62.7.369.

Withdrawal of life-prolonging medical care and hospice-palliative care

  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, The Catholic University of Korea College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. angelamd@catholic.ac.kr


Hospice and palliative care can help terminal patients and their family members to face the natural end of life more comfortably, by providing them with an environment to address psychosocial and spiritual problems, as well as physical symptoms. However, most patients and their caregivers have the misconception that hospice care means the withdrawal of all treatments. Many physicians also consider hospice care to be a form of terminal care after all treatments are finished. Laws regulating the withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment came into effect in Korea in 2018, and these regulations also apply to most terminal stages of benign diseases. The withdrawal of futile life-prolonging treatment is quite different from euthanasia or negligence. At the last stage of disease, treatment aimed at alleviating various symptoms can make critically ill patients more comfortable and thereby help them to die with dignity. Patients with a terminal illness should receive hospice and palliative care, instead of futile life-prolonging treatment. Therefore, education and training programs to promote a proper understanding of hospice and palliative care should be considered mandatory.


Withholding treatment; Palliative care; Hospice care

MeSH Terms

Critical Illness
Hospice Care
Palliative Care
Social Control, Formal
Terminal Care
Withholding Treatment


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