Published : 2010-03-30 15:12
Updated : 2010-03-30 15:12
Amid the conflict between the family members and the hospital, the first comatose patient to have her life support system removed is still breathing.
The physical condition of the 76-year-old Kim were stable as of yesterday, but she briefly worsened as her oxygen level fell below 90 percent at around 8 a.m. that morning, said officials.
Kim was taken off her respirator Tuesday, according to the Supreme Court ruling last month that she be granted the right to die with dignity.
"Upon such changes of her vital signs, we immediately made emergency calls to her family members," said Park Chang-il, director of the Yonsei Severance Hospital, where Kim has been in a coma for the last 17 months. "However, her respiration capacity soon regained control."
Though Kim recovered from her short physical turbulence, her condition will be kept under close watch over the coming two to four weeks, he said.
"Phlegm may at any time block her airways, which may cause pneumonia," said Park. "We will then have to rely on drugs and other means, all but excluding the insertion of a respirator, as the Supreme Court clearly ordered the termination."
Meanwhile, the conflict between the Yonsei Severance Hospital and Kim`s family members is escalating.
Kim`s family members yesterday filed a suit against the hospital, requesting 40 million won ($31,104) in damages.
"The hospital caused unnecessary physical pain to the victim by attaching a respirator to her without thoroughly checking her breathing capacities," said Shin Hyeon-ho, lawyer representing Kim`s family.
Kim`s family members already filed a suit in the criminal court last March, claiming that Kim`s coma was caused by the hospital`s medical negligence.
Also, the removal of the respirator, based on the court ruling, did not put an end to their 17-month dispute.
As Kim survived, the hospital said that Kim`s state showed that she did not qualify for life support removal, as she was able to breathe on her own, although she was partly reliant on the respirator.
"Having a low respiratory capacity and thus being dependent on the respirator for breathing does not indicate imminent death," said Park Chang-il, director of Severance Hospital. "This is why we did not agree to the court ruling, which judged Kim as being in her dying stages."
Family member, however, said that they were glad to see Kim relieved from the unnecessary and painful respirator.
Kim lapsed into a coma last February after experiencing serious blood loss during a medical procedure for lung cancer.
Amid the continuing controversies on the right to die with dignity, Heo Dae-seok of the Seoul National University said yesterday that two patients among the seven who refused in advance to be put on artificial life support have died.