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South Korea appeals court affirms landmark right-to-die ruling

[JURIST] A South Korea [JURIST news archive] appellate court on Tuesday upheld a landmark lower court ruling authorizing removal of life-support from a comatose woman. Tuesday's decision by the Seoul High Court affirmed the December ruling of the Seoul Western District Court that ordered Yonsei Severance Hospital [hospital website] to remove the 77-year-old woman from a life-support respirator she has relied on for artificial breathing since falling into a vegetative state in February 2008. While refusing to characterize the action as "voluntary euthanasia", the High Court issued guidelines [Joong Ang Daily report] for removing patients from life support, including ensuring that the patient has no possibility of recovery and had previously formed a serious intention of stopping treatment, ensuring that the treatment to be stopped must be linked to maintaining the patient's current state, and mandating that doctors not be allowed to stop pain-reducing treatment. The Yonsei Severance Hospital intends to appeal the High Court's ruling [Korea Herald report] to the Supreme Court of Korea [official website].

Several courts and governments have recently tackled legal issues surrounding the withdrawal of life-support, food and treatment from persons in a persistent vegetative state. Earlier this week Italian lawmakers indicated that they would proceed with a vote on right-to-die legislation despite the death of comatose patient Eluana Englaro [JURIST reports] Monday after the removal of her feeding tube last Friday. In November, the Mexican Senate approved a law [JURIST report] that would allow terminally ill patients to refuse medical treatment. In 2005, the Terri Schiavo case [JURIST report] highlighted similar issues in the United States.

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