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A Study of the Attitudes of Patients, Family Members, and Physicians toward the Withdrawal of Medical Treatment for Terminal Patients in Korea

  • Korean Journal of Medical Ethics
  • Abbr : 의료윤리
  • 2010, 13(1), pp.1-16
  • DOI : 10.35301/ksme.2010.13.1.1
  • Publisher : The Korean Society For Medical Ethics
  • Research Area : Medicine and Pharmacy > General Medicine
  • Published : March 31, 2010

Bok Kyu Kwon 1 KOH YS ORD ID 2 Yun, Young Ho 3 Heo, Dae Seog 4 Suh Sang Yeon 5 Hyeon Cheol Kim 1 Kyungsuk Choi ORD ID 1 Hyun A Bae 1 안경진 6

1이화여자대학교
2울산대학교
3국립암센터
4서울대학교
5동국대학교
6이화여자대학교 생명의료법연구소

Accredited

ABSTRACT

A survey was conducted from September to December 2008 to examine the attitudes of patients, family members, and physicians toward the withdrawal of medical treatment for terminal patients and other related issues. The subjects for the study were 91 cancer patients, 96 family members of cancer or other terminally ill patients, and 140 physicians. Most subjects acknowledge the need for an appropriate regulatory framework for the withdrawal of treatment for terminal patients. However, some discrepancies were found among the different groups (patients, family members, physicians) in this study. Patients showed a stronger preference for the withdrawal of treatment than did family members. Also, most patients claimed they wanted to receive the diagnosis of a terminal illness from their physician, while most family members seem to think it is their own duty to convey such a diagnosis to the patient. Both groups prefer co-decision-making about the withdrawal of treatment over individual decision-making by the patient. However, most family members admit that they do not know much about the patient’s wishes and lack the time for sufficient conversation with the patient. Physicians are skeptical of the authenticity of the decisions made by family members, and some physicians also regard hospital ethics committees as being ineffective for resolving these issues. The results of this study paint a unique picture of clinical culture in Korea, where family members still exert strong influence on clinical decision-making and little information is shared between patients, family members, and physicians. The study points to a need for greater public education in Korea on the practical and ethical issues surrounding the withdrawal of treatment for terminal patients.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.