Chinese City passes ‘Right to Die” Protection against ‘Excessive Life-Saving

Southern China’s Shenzhen was recently designated a “special economic zone” by China’s central governments. It became the first Chinese community to pass , a regulation that protects a person’s right to die. The Global Times noted on Tuesday that this new legislation is intended to assist terminally ill people refusing “excessive, life-saving treatment

” According to Shenzhen Special Economic Zone’s revised medical regulations, patients who don’t wish to have their medical staff ‘perform unnecessary life support’ should be allowed to die in peace. China’s state-run Global Times was relayed July 5.

Citing unnamed experts on the topic of end-of life protocol, the Chinese Communist Party controlled newspaper stated that Shenzhen’s “right to death” regulations were intended only for patients in palliative care. This type of care can be used when the condition of the patient is not reversible .”

Many countries worldwide, including several Western nations, currently allow people to sign “do-not-resuscitate (DNR)” documents that essentially grant the signee the right to refuse life-saving treatments in advance should they enter a terminally ill state in the future.

The Global Times referred to Shenzhen’s “right-to-die” legislation as a form of DNR on Tuesday. It noted that “a person signs an agreement in advance while conscious and alert, specifying the type of medical care that he/she wants at the end of incurable disease .”

“Shenzhen’s ‘right to die’ legislation has turned people’s abstract rights enshrined in Article 130 and Article 1002 of China’s Civil Code into a specific embodiment,” Liu Ruishuang, a deputy director of the Department of Medical Ethics and Law of the School of Health Humanity at Beijing’s Peking University, told the Global Times on July 5.

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“[B]By allowing patients with life-threatening illnesses to choose whether they want to receive life-extending treatment, the legislation protects their rights to self-determination.

“[U]nlike in euthanasia in which patients are ‘deprived of their life’ by others such as family or friends, the patient decides if he wants to continue with medical treatment under this law,” she stated.

Liu acknowledged that Shenzhen’s new “right to die” legislation “requires more detailed and specific rules for practical implementation.”

” For instance, what is the definition of “the last stage in a patient’s life?” She suggested that medical professionals could list all circumstances in which patients may refuse life-extending treatments.

The New Yorker‘s Jiayang Fan highlighted in March 2020 that China’s state-run hospitals generally lack “consistent palliative care.” She interviewed Song Jianguo, a former director of a respiratory department at a hospital in Taiyuan, which is the capital and largest city of northern China’s Shanxi province.

“Song was in his sixties and had recently retired after being diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer.” Fan said.

Relaying Song’s evaluation of Chinese end-of life care, Fan wrote:

“It’s a subject we should talk about more openly in this country,” he said, pointing out that, even in a hospital of this scale [in Taiyuan], there was no consistent palliative care. Another problem was the distortion of incentives: Doctors earned less to prescribe pain medication than they did for chemotherapy and surgery orders. […]

He was concerned that growing distrust in doctors would undermine end-of life discussions. “It’s impossible, when the patient and the family are thinking at every turn: Oh, doctor, is it because the doctor says there’s no way we can do or because he doesn’t believe he will earn enough ?”

[…] Everyone should be aware of what lies ahead. When that day comes, we have to know the difference between giving up and letting go.”

Taiyuan lies roughly 300 miles southwest of Beijing, China’s northern national capital. Taiyuan is located about 1,200 miles north of Shenzhen, which is a southern metropolis bridging China and Hong Kong. Shenzhen has an estimated population of 12.6 million, meaning its new “right to die” legislation will potentially impact a large number of people.

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