Mercy killing a complicated issue

Updated: 2013-08-08 10:03

(China Daily)

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Comment on "Association urges Chinese to have a living will" (China Daily, May 4)

Traditionally, Chinese people are reluctant to talk about death. In such circumstances, should a person be allowed to decide whether he/she wants to die to escape, say, a terminal disease? And what happens if the person writes a "living will" and wants someone to help end his/her life? As Liu Lin, a lawyer, asked in a recent article: "One can end his/her own life, but is it moral to have others help him/her do so?"

Chinese law has not approved of euthanasia. So how should society deal with the legal challenge that a "living will" poses?

For example, who should switch off the ventilator of a terminally ill patient and allow him/her to "die with dignity"? His/her relatives, an NGO or the hospital? What happens if the relatives, the NGO and the hospital cannot reach an agreement? What happens if relatives of a person who has written a "living will" disagree with it and want him/her to live as long as possible? Should the hospital or the concerned NGO insist on executing the patient's will ignoring the demands of the relatives? If the relatives' demand prevails, of what use is the "living will"? Or, what should the NGO or the hospital do if, after executing the will, it is dragged to court for "killing the patient" by his/her relatives?

The answer to none of these questions is easy, because the issue is too complicated to be dealt with according to the existing laws.

Chang Xiyan, via e-mail

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