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Doctors pull comatose woman off life support

DOCTORS removed a comatose woman from life support yesterday, as her family and two judges looked on, following a right-to-die ruling signaling a shift in South Korea's attitude to death.

The 77-year-old patient, Kim Ok-kyung, had been in a vegetative state since suffering brain damage in February 2008.

Her family filed a lawsuit demanding doctors take her off the respirator, saying their mother had always opposed keeping people alive on machines when there was no chance of revival.

The Supreme Court granted the request last month, saying continuing medical treatment on patients with no chance of revival could "tarnish people's dignity."

Yesterday, doctors at Seoul's Severance Hospital removed the respirator from Kim. About five hours after the removal, Kim was still breathing, but her death could come at any time, the hospital said.

As recently as 2004, two doctors in South Korea who took a severely brain-damaged patient off life support were convicted of "abetting murder" and received suspended prison terms.

But public sentiment has shifted; a 2008 survey indicated a majority of South Koreans favor stopping life support for the terminally ill.


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