Living wills and end of life: the commitment of Thai Catholics

» 10/07/2011 11:51

by Weena Kowitwanij
Doctors, nurses, paramedics and volunteers participate in a meeting on Article 12 of national health law. Among the themes touched on palliative care, psychological support and aggressive medical treatment. Condemnation of euthanasia, “illegal” and to be “punished”.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Living wills and end of life, how to ensure the best care to the patient without aggressive treatment, providing adequate psychological support to relatives and help to resolve disputes. They are the central themes of a meeting – held in Bangkok in recent days – organized by the Catholic health care service, in collaboration with the Thai Bishops Conference Commission for Social Development, Department for Health and Social Communications Ministry. In the presence of doctors, nurses, staff working in the health sector and volunteers, Article 12 of the bill on the 2007 National Health, implemented on an informal basis since May 22, 2011 we was discussed. The law gives the patient the opportunity to write his or her will, with so-called “end of life” instructions.

In this way, doctors and family can proceed according to the directives expressed by the patient. The legislation states that “the purpose of living wills, and to let the patient to express his thoughts” and that he is entitled to the “principle of self-determination.” In detail, the law covers very specific areas including: law, role and tasks of the patient, doctors and paramedical staff, as well as establishing joint guidelines on how to implement the will of the patient. The conference was developed from the question “Whose is your life?” And, among the main speakers, were Fr. Cherdchai Lertjitlaeka, Camillian priest and associate professor Pornlert Chatkaew doctor at Chulalongkorn Hospital.

The doctor explained palliative care, starting from the control of symptoms, pain relief, spiritual care and support for relatives. ” We are not looking for death – said Pornlert – neither do we run away from it but we are courageously facing death in peace ” Fr. Lertjitlaeka stated that “we are not masters of our lives” and we ” should let the patient peacefully passes away with dignity”. Regarding the issue of the Living will, he states that it “should be explained in simple language,” so that all Catholics “can understand it well before making any decision.”

During the meeting end of life care, and the moral and legal implications of euthanasia were also discussed. Fr. Lertjitlaeka clarified that “euthanasia means destroying the life of an innocent.” Dr. Pornlert added: “Any doctor [that] puts an end to the life of a patient, following the wishes of relatives, performs an illegal act and deserves to be punished.” Finally, the intervention of Professor Sumalee Nimmannit, an authority on the subject, said that attention should not be centred on technologies that prolong life but on “support for the patient at the time of death, with full consciousness and at peace with himself “.