Page last updated at 07:48 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 08:48 UK

South Korea grants 'right to die'

South Korea's Chief Justice Lee Yong-hoon announces the ruling
South Korea's Chief Justice Lee Yong-hoon announced the ruling

South Korea's Supreme Court has upheld a landmark ruling giving a brain-dead woman the right to die.

The court agreed to a request from the family of the 76-year-old woman, who has been comatose for a year, to remove her from life support.

It is the first case of its kind in South Korea and follows a series of legal challenges.

Doctors had refused to grant the wishes of the family, and had brought the case to the country's top court.

In this case, continued hospital treatment only serves to hurt her human dignity
Supreme Court ruling

A lower court approved a request by the woman's children in November, after they argued she had no chance of recovery and her wish to die could be inferred.

An appeal court upheld the ruling in February but was challenged by the hospital doctors.

South Korea's top court said that the sustained treatment of terminally ill patients such as in this case potentially violated a patient's dignity.

"Whether to continue artificial life support and feeding for comatose patients is a matter that should be considered carefully," said the Supreme Court ruling.

"If it is obvious that the patient in question will soon die judging from her conditions, we can conclude that she has already entered a phase of death. In this case, continued hospital treatment only serves to hurt her human dignity."

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