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Hastings International and Comparative Law Review

Abstract

In Confucian societies, people tend to avoid the discussion on death matters, let alone making advance directives to reject life-sustaining treatments at the end of life. Taiwan might be a pioneer in legislating the right-to-die with dignity among Confucian countries. As early as 2000, the Hospice Palliative Care Act was declared in Taiwan, which give terminally-ill patients the options to forgo life-sustaining treatments. Furthermore, in 2016, Taiwan passed the Patient Right to Autonomy Act to enhance patients’ choice at the end of life and expanded the coverage to certain types of nonterminally ill patients. On the other hand, end-of-life issues in Japan are regulated mainly through courts’ judgments and medical societies’ guidelines. Korea passed a law to legalize passive euthanasia, which became effective in 2018, but only contains limits to terminally-ill patients.

This paper is divided into three sections. First, this paper analyzes the sociocultural emphasis on family unity in East Asia and attitudes toward death in East Asian cultures, and then the methods adopted in Japan and South Korea of solving related disputes through the judiciary or legislation are explained. Second, the paper describes the legislative background of the aforementioned two laws in Taiwan, including futile medical care, the denial of citizen autonomy with respect to serious injury and death by criminal law theory, the unwillingness of the judiciary to intervene, and disputes encountered at medical sites. Subsequently, we explain the primary content of these two laws, including patients’ rights to self-determination, the judgment procedures of medical institutions, and the operation of advance directives. Finally, this paper analyzes inadequacies in the Patient Right to Autonomy Act, including a lack of penalties, insufficiencies in medical institutions’ scope of duty of disclosure, and the lack of a settlement mechanism for individuals who have not yet established advance directives.

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