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Living will presents difficult choices for family

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Choosing to end or sustain a life is a difficult choice no matter where you're from in the world. Li Nan now looks at how people from different parts of China and the world look at living wills.

When a loved one can only breathe with the help of a respirator, or have their heart beat using a pacemaker, do you continue fighting to keep them alive, or accept that it's time to let them go?

The patients' dependants said, "This is really a difficult choice. If we choose to give up treatment, it disrespects our parents. Others may think we are not trying our best to save them."

The patients' dependants said, "I think it's better to sustain their life. It feels like we are still together."

However, there are people who see it differently.

Taiwan started to use living wills thirteen years ago, but there remain difficulties in the process.

Though the advance care directive is signed by the patient, it needs the consent of at least two family members before doctors can issue the necessary medical certificate and carry out the will's instructions.

Ou Weiren, doctor with Cardinal Tien Hospital, said, "Family members often have different opinions, which bring us a lot of trouble."

It seems people's views on living wills depend on their views on life.

Patient with advanced liver cancer said, "Even an ant wants to survive, let alone humans."

Lai Yunliang, deputy direct of Taipei Shuang Ho Hospital, said, "When all one has left is just a heartbeat, it's a disrespect to life."

Living wills have proven to be more popular in the west.

Back in the 1970s, the state of California in the US approved the Natural Death Act, allowing patients to choose their future health care.

By 2007, 41 percent of Americans had completed a living will. And other laws were passed in support of living wills in almost every state.

In China, some doctors and volunteers have formed associations to promote the use of living wills. But it remains to be seen if specific laws will be enacted to put it into wider effect.


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