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Minister's remark over terminal patients sparks controversy

Minister's remark over terminal patients sparks controversy

Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang's remark that performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on terminal cancer patients may waste life and medical resources provoked controversy yesterday, according to local media reports.
Responding to the ruling Kuomintang lawmaker Yang Li-huan during Thursday's question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan, the outspoken minister said performing intubation and electric shock on terminal cancer patients were a waste of medical resources and of life because such patients suffered much pain.
He said he hoped that if hospitalized, they would have the right to accept or refuse medical treatment including the DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order - written instructions from a physician telling health care providers not to perform CPR.
Yaung's statement caused controversy from ruling and opposition legislators. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Chen Ting-fei slammed his remark as not having a sense of compassion.
The DPP legislator Huang Wei-cher said Yaung could not understand the pain of terminal cancer patients because he was not one of them. He suggested that the Department of Health (DOH) promote hospice care, end-of-life care provided by health professionals and volunteers who give medical, psychological and spiritual support.
The KMT lawmaker Lo Shu-lei supported Yaung's remark that persons with terminal illness may not want aggressive interventions but prefer a natural and peaceful death with dignity.
Most Taiwanese families and relatives, however, always ask doctors to cure their loved ones with terminal cancer. The DOH statistics in 2008 showed that about 40,000 people died of cancer that year but only 10,000 patients chose hospice care before death.
Chao Co-shi, Chairwoman of Taiwan Association of Hospice Palliative Nursing, said that hospice care can help patients and families focus on comfort and quality of life.