Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, says that news reports that South Korea has legalized South Korea are incorrect. He notes:
Today I received the South Korean – End-of-life guidelines from a Korean physician. It is clear that S Korea did not legalize euthanasia. The guidelines concern the rules that must be followed before a physician can withdraw or withhold medical treatment…
The guidelines did not approve:
* Surrogate decision is not allowed for adult patients, but partially allowed for minors and people with mental disabilities.
It is clear that euthanasia has not been legalized in S Korea. The guidelines do not approve of euthanasia by dehydration either.
It is also clear that the South Korea guidelines are more cautious than most national end-of-life guidelines in the western world. While I share the concern about how “terminally ill” may be defined, these guidelines do not appear to be designed to open the floodgate.
The original reports coming out of South Korea by English-language media were wrong, but were incorrect in a way that mirrors the public misundertstandings about euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide and end-of-life care in the western world. Many people do not like the idea of living on “life support” or having extraordinary means used to keep them alive. It is quite a jump from that to active euthanasia and letting a doctor takes specific actions to end the life of a patient. The reporting in the AFP story on South Korea, like so many discussions here at home, conflate two very different things. Therefore, I disagree with Alex who charges the news agency with deliberately confusing the two; I don’t think many journalists understand the difference between guidelines for terminally ill patients making decisions about extraordinary treatments and killing through direct means.