Shenzhen has become the first city in China to pass legislation allowing critically ill patients to refuse “excessive life-saving treatment,” Red Star News reports.
Changes to Article 78 of Medical Regulations of the Shenzhen SEZ now allow critically ill patients to refuse treatments that will extend or save their lives.
Should a patient refuse the treatments, hospitals are now required by law to abide by their wishes.
Furthermore, if a patient stated that they did not want to receive life-extending or life-saving treatment before they entered a state where they were unable to make their own decisions, family members and medical professionals have to respect their decision in accordance with the new law.
This is the first time people in China have been afforded the right to die under specific circumstances, but it is not to be confused with euthanasia, which gives people the right to end their own life.
Euthanasia is illegal in China and, in May 2011, a farmer named Zhong Yichun of Jiangxi Province was sentenced to two years in prison for assisting a friend’s suicide.
Zhong was arrested after he helped his friend Zeng Qianxiang, who suffered from mental health disorders, end his life. Zeng had apparently asked Zhong to help him commit suicide on numerous occasions.
In October 2010, Zeng laid in a hole that had been dug in the ground and then overdosed on sleeping pills. Zhong checked to see if he had died 15 minutes later and then buried him. The process was agreed upon by both parties.
However, the subsequent autopsy report found that Zeng died of suffocation and had not overdosed.
Zhong was convicted of criminal negligence resulting in another person's death.
The case sparked a debate around assisted suicide in the country, and whether Zhong should be convicted of intentional homicide or criminal negligence.
In regard to the new legislation in Shenzhen, which is being referred to as “living will,” many netizens expressed their support and stated that a person’s last wish should be honored.
[Cover image via Flickr]