(SOV )"When my time comes, I want to go in peace, thanking everyone and saying goodbye to my loved ones."
(SOV )"I think of my life as a picnic. And when the picnic is over, that's the time I go back to Heaven. That's how I've always seen death, and always will."
Most people don’t have a say in how they spend the very last moments of their life.
But now, a new law, the so-called 'well-dying law', enables individuals to choose how to approach the end of their lives, and to even die a ‘good death'.
By signing an end-of-life care agreement, they can decide whether they want life-prolonging treatment when they are in a near-to-death situation, with no chance of recovery.
A trial run of the program began last week, before the (SOV ) law takes effect in February next year.
"At the National Assembly, all but one who abstained, were in favor of passing the law. There was great social demand for the law after the 'Boramae Hospital' incident, but it was difficult to reach an agreement"
According to a survey of 350 adults by a team of professors at Kunyang University College of Medicine last year, 8 out of 10 said they were opposed to life-prolonging treatment.
Kakdang Social Welfare Foundation is one of the few designated consultation centers for those individuals who wish to sign the end-of-life care agreement, or learn more about it.
Upon announcement of the trial-run program, many people have welcomed the 'well-dying law' and have been visiting the center for information on what exactly it offers.
"It's a necessary law. I saw many patients lie in the intensive care unit without promise of recovery. It's not only a financial burden, but also a great suffering for the patients.
The end-of-life care agreement system already existed in private institutions.
But as it was developed into law, various changes were made to the system.
The biggest change is that the 'well-dying' law prioritizes self-determination.
In the past, there had to be a witness present for a patient to sign the end-of-life agreement.
However, now, anyone over the age of 19 determined to 'die with dignity', can sign the document without having to share the information with another person.
“Before the law was passed, people could ‘die well’, only when they were in possession of this document, which shows that they do not want life-prolonging treatment.
But now, the document is filed online, so that even if the paper is lost, they can still fulfill their final wishes.”
A handful of other countries already recognize a dignified death.
While the Netherlands and Switzerland allow active forms of euthanasia,other countries only give approval in specific circumstances.
Korea's 'well-dying law' is different from the pre-existing examples in that it does not mention 'euthanasia' nor 'death with dignity', and only covers life-extending treatment.
“Other countries' laws mostly deal with 'assisted dying'. Korea is the only country with a law on life-prolonging treatment that specifically designates what is allowed and what is not. It also takes into account the individual's wishes and the doctor's diagnosis."
But as the law is still in its pilot stage, there are some issues that need to be solved.
“The elderly mostly sign the papers to save financial costs or so as not to put a burden on their children. There are usually ulterior motives in deciding to stop life-prolonging treatment."
Everyone has the right to decide how to end their life when the time comes.
But rather than having that decision influenced by external factors such as money,
it is important to make the decision out of one's own will to protect the basic values of human life.
The government needs to oversee the program so that the law serves the purpose of giving life more dignity.
Park Hee-jun, Arirang News.