A preview of the regulations to implement the Patient Right to Autonomy Act (病人自主權利法) is to be published by end of this month, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said yesterday.
Touted as the first of its kind in Asia, the legislation grants terminally ill people and some other patients the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment.
It was signed into law by then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in 2016.
Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Yang Yu-hsin (楊玉欣), one of the bill’s advocates, yesterday called a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, attended by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) and ministry officials, to discuss the law and its regulations.
Sports commentator Fu Da-ren (傅達仁) went to Switzerland to commit assisted suicide because there is no legal euthanasia in Taiwan, Chen said, adding that the act would partially address the issue.
Conflicts between patients and medical professionals over the extent of patient autonomy could become an issue and the government has to implement the act with care, she said.
Yang said that over the past 20 years, she had interviewed numerous terminally ill patients and their family members, and virtually everyone brought up the issue of suicide.
“Rather than seeing medicine as a tool for the indefinite extension of life that had lost its meaning, medical care should be more empathetic and help patients complete their lives with dignity,” she said.
The patient’s autonomy in the patient-doctor relationship should be protected, she said.
Lawmakers from across the political divide have worked together to draft the legislation and they are drafting regulations that would better implement the policy aspects of the law, she said.
The ministry in April published guidelines on living wills regarding medical treatment for patients and institutions, said Liu Yueh-ping (劉越萍), an official at the ministry’s Department of Medical Affairs.
The ministry also expects to complete the draft regulations for implementing the law and publish them before the end of the month, she said.
The ministry this year plans to establish one advanced healthcare directive consultancy for each of the nation’s 22 counties and cities, which would open their doors on Jan. 6 next year, when the law goes into effect, Liu said.
Social worker Yeh Yi-lin (葉依琳) said her institution, Taipei City Hospital, is the first of seven hospitals to participate in the act’s pilot program that began in 2016 and has so far enrolled 240 members.
Most of the men that participated in the program are aged 50 to 79, while the women are aged 40 to 69, she said.
In the draft regulations, medical institutions are responsible for giving advice regarding living medical wills, the cost of which is mostly not covered by the national health insurance, which could impede the law’s implementation, Yeh said.
“It is a right and a responsibility for each person to decide how to die and it is my recommendation for the government to create a National Health Insurance-funded credit system for advanced medical care planning,” she said.
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