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Living wills enliven debate about death

Updated: 2016-11-03 07:58
By Liu Zhihua (China Daily)

 Living wills enliven debate about death

An elderly man chats with a nurse at the hospice.Photos By Zhang Yu / Xinhua

There is no comparable organization in Hangzhou, but people in the city are becoming increasingly open-minded about discussing death and living wills, Zhang said.

She noted that a few years ago, a doctor in the city attracted national attention after it emerged that he had allowed his father, who had advanced cancer, to live out the last months of his life quietly in the countryside, instead of insisting on time-consuming, painful chemotherapy in the hospital.

Instead of criticizing the son, most people showed sympathy and understanding, even though his behavior would have been regarded as unfilial in days gone by, she said.

However, the association's Luo said there is still a long way to go before the idea is widely accepted.

She believes that a key step would be for the health authorities to include living wills in patients' official medical records, so their physicians will know exactly what treatment they would be willing to undergo as their life draws to a close.

Quality of life

Song Yuetao, assistant to the president of the Beijing Geriatric Hospital, said people are increasingly aware that quality of life is more important than longevity.

In the past, it was difficult to talk about death with dying patients, and the phrase "living wills" - which translates as "requests before death" in Chinese - was shunned because it sounded ominous.

The hospital's own version of the living will - which allows testators to "reject invasive rescue and treatments" - has been welcomed by patients and their families.

"Chinese people often say that it's better to live in misery than to die, but nowadays people are more prepared to question those traditional ideas," Song said.

Contact the writer at liuzhihua@chinadaily.com.cn


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