“Even terminally ill people instinctively look for the possibility of living a little longer than dying.”
Ahn Gi-jong (53), representative of the Korea Federation of Patient Organizations, sent a ‘opposition letter’ to the Ministry of Health and Welfare in July of last year, pointing out the problems of the ‘assisted justice law’ item by item. He cited the development of medicine as one of the grounds against the introduction of the system.
CEO Ahn experienced something like a miracle thanks to the development of medicine. In November 2001, his wife accidentally discovered a large lump on her stomach. Her wife had a bone marrow examination done at a large hospital. The result is myeloid leukemia. She had passed the chronic phase and entered the accelerator phase. “Six months.” From the mouth of the doctor, a ‘death sentence’ came down.
Fear crept in. Mrs. Ahn searched for information about the new drug on behalf of her frantic wife, and after a while found hopeful news. It was said that there was a way to take ‘Gleevec’, a targeted anticancer drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only six months ago, free of charge in Korea. Gleevec was evaluated as a ‘miracle anticancer drug’ by specialists at the time. A few hospitals were carrying out a system that provided free medicines to terminally ill patients and provided treatment opportunities. I participated in the program with a glimmer of hope.
After taking Gleevec, my wife complained of severe vomiting and muscle pain. But her need to survive was stronger. She rummaged through the vomit and repeated that she swallowed the Gleevec again. Thanks to her, her blood levels returned to normal within a month. After three months, the cancer cells had almost disappeared, and by ten months, the results of bone marrow examination were at the same level as those of normal people. When her condition improved, her hospital recommended hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for a full recovery. Her surgery was successful. Her wife has been off her medication since 2013. Her wife, who was 6 months old, has been working for the company for over 20 years.
The existence of his wife, who survived because he did not give up, is the reason Ahn cannot support the institutionalization of assisted dying. With the development of medicine, the possibility of treating rare and incurable diseases is increasing. Over the past 20 years, the survival rate of lung cancer, the number one cancer in Korea, has increased by more than 2.6 times. He argues that if assisted dying is recklessly implemented in this situation, even a person who can live like his wife will give up his life. CEO Ahn said, “With the development of medicine, the standard for defining terminally ill or terminally ill patients is gradually rising.”
The voices of the guardians who sighed as they continued the war with the caregivers day by day strengthened his conviction. My heart sinks when I hear the weary pleas of caregivers, ‘I wish the patient would just die’. His judgment is that in this situation, assisted dying can push the patient to death.
However, CEO Ahn is not necessarily opposed to assisted dying. Every human being has an end in life. There are definitely times when the pain is completely unmanageable and death is unavoidable. At that time, he thinks he might consider assisted dying as a last resort.
“Patients do not deny that assisted dying will be institutionalized in the future. However, there is still no money for treatment, so it is a world where even murder occurs due to exhaustion from nursing care. Wouldn’t it be possible to discuss it again only when the end-of-life environment has been sufficiently improved through institutional improvements and financial input?”
The lonely father’s death, if someone had helped…
“The idea that assisted dying emerged too soon as a solution to suffering. Even though there are many problems that can be solved with hospice and palliative care. ”
‘O&C’ (Open and Closure: when the patient is in poor condition after surgery and sutured immediately. Surgeon says it is the most disappointing and regrettable operation) Seonyeong Kim (47), a professor of oncology at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, learned about the medical term ‘O&C’ when she was in middle school. In the fall of 1990, his father, an economist in his mid-40s, was suddenly diagnosed with gallbladder cancer. He has his stomach open for surgery but can’t use his hands. Instead, his father had a bile drainage tube (PTBD) inserted into his body.
Her mother did her best by her father’s side. “This boring… ”The following December, when her father’s last breath died, her mother sighed as she removed her coffin from her body. She seemed to be freed from the long dark tunnel, but she felt guilty for not giving the deceased a ‘better last’.
It was a nightmare. The process of her death left trauma to her family. My father and my family were all left with memories of pain. The time spent trying to heal was stained with regret and guilt. “At that time, there was no one who could talk about death fully and help me prepare for it. If there had been a hospice system and someone had helped her die, it would have helped her father and his family a lot.”
He is now an oncologist treating cancer patients like his father. He is reluctant to recommend meaningless life-sustaining treatment because he is well aware of the patient’s pain and the regrets of the remaining family members. Unlike his father’s deathbed, people who come to visit him hope that he will be well prepared for his death in a hospice and palliative care system.
But in reality, the limits were clear. Busy hospitals that do not take enough care of patients and insufficient hospice manpower are chronic chronic diseases. The hospice utilization rate of only 21.5% (compared to deaths from diseases eligible for hospice in 2021) is an embarrassing number to emphasize that hospice is a good enough system. Professor Kim argues that the priority is to expand the hospice system to increase usage and improve awareness. Professor Kim said, “Most patients are obsessed with treatment, but doctors do not have the opportunity or time to fully explain hospice. In the end,먹튀검증 by inertia, the patient dies in the emergency room while undergoing chemotherapy, and the family suffers great trauma,” he said. In this system, it is difficult for medical staff to fully relieve patients’ loneliness and anxiety.”
Professor Kim said, “Most of the terminally ill patients I met at the hospital have a very strong will to live.” He believes that the high percentage of people in favor of assisted dying in various public opinion polls is because respondents did not have specific and deep concerns about end of life. Professor Kim said, “When people think of a distant death, they coolly think, ‘I should live a healthy life and die cleanly. Somehow, I feel like I want to spend a little more time with my family without giving up hope.”
Professor Kim emphasized that active intervention by medical staff is necessary for terminally ill patients and their families to accept death and fully prepare. He said, “The medical staff needs to make it clear that the treatment is no longer helpful, and that chemotherapy is harmful. That is to relieve the guilt and burden of families who do not choose treatment.”
Drive the socially underprivileged, such as assisted death and the disabled, to death
“What kind of world is it these days, how can I live with a body like that… Let’s just let it go.”
Lee Moon-hee (66), who is severely disabled, still has a terrible feeling when she thinks of her childhood, when she was unknowingly at a crossroads in her life. He contracted the polio virus that spread in his neighborhood soon after he was born. He couldn’t stand up even after two years. He later went to the hospital and was diagnosed with physical disability.
One day, his relative’s grandmother came to visit. Her grandmother said to Lee’s mother, “Wouldn’t it be better to stop eating grain?” It was to give them less food so that they would naturally starve to death. At the time, most of the family’s income went to Lee’s medical expenses. At a time when it was difficult for even a healthy child to live, his family was worried about the life Mr. Lee would lead. Fortunately, against her mother’s strong opposition, Mr. Lee was able to avoid his death.
Mr. Lee said, “My grandmother was worried about my life and asked me to kill her, but she didn’t ask my doctor, her grandson, and tried to eliminate her chance for the rest of her life.”
He opposes assisted dying. There is a problem with the system in which a third party decides the death of a person, like the grandmother who tried to kill her grandson. Mr. Lee said, “The ‘right to die’ that people talk about is that the state should not intervene in my death,” he said.
The big and small experiences I had while studying in Germany also became a reason to oppose assisted dying. Lee majored in vocational rehabilitation for the disabled at the University of Dortmund in 1998. I fell into a meeting while watching my advisor in class support euthanasia for the severely disabled. He was convinced that even if euthanasia was ostensibly for the weak, it could actually be a means of putting death pressure on the weak.
Mr. Lee believes that assisted death can lead to ‘eugenics’ based on fascism. It was 1:00 a.m. one day while Lee was pursuing her Ph.D., when she opened the door because it was bright outside, and the house was on fire. I hurriedly drew water from the bathroom and sprayed it. With reports and help from neighbors, Mr. Lee was barely able to survive. As it turned out later, it was an arson crime committed by ‘neo-Nazis’ (neo-Nazis) who hate Asians and people with disabilities.
Mr. Lee said, “With the number of extreme rightists such as neo-Nazis increasing (worldwide), euthanasia is being supported by those who advocate nationalism.” He continued, “The fact that our society is thinking about euthanasia is proof that values and philosophies based on practicality dominate society.”
Mr. Lee said that society should know that even those who shout ‘I want to die’ ultimately want to ‘I want to live’. “They say they want to die, but in fact, they have a big desire to live in a better environment. We need to see if proper medical services are provided to them first. The desire to die is not only due to physical pain, but also psychological causes such as emotional loneliness and disconnection from the world. It’s time to ask a terminally ill patient, ‘How are you feeling?’ before asking ‘How are you going to die?’”