The law in Hong Kong is much different than that in the United States – especially when it comes to end-of-life care. Those who live in Hong Kong do not currently enjoy the right to decide when they stop receiving life-saving treatments, which has led to a number of protests dedicated to winning the right to an advance medical directive. A recently proposed law would grant Hong Kong citizens to decide when they die.
A last will and testament in the United States is often drafted to include power of attorney. The document essentially allows an individual to nominate a trusted friend or loved one to make healthcare decisions if the individual no longer has the mental faculties to make those decisions alone.
An advance medical directive sometimes prevents the need for power of attorney in some circumstances by providing specific directions for what actions should be taken. The directive is normally part of a person’s last will and testament.
The new law in Hong Kong would allow a person who is 18 or older to provide this advance medical directive by deciding whether or not they would wish to be resuscitated in certain circumstances. In addition, citizens could decide whether or not to be kept alive using machines.
In order to make these decisions, a person must have the mental faculties to do so. Two witnesses must also be available. One needs to be certified as a doctor. Neither witness can have a claim to the patient’s inheritance.
Lawmakers in Hong Kong admit that more work needs to be done to educate the masses about the options available.
Albert Lam Kai-chung of the Food and Health Bureau said, “This new law will add more certainty and protection to uphold the patient’s right to self-determination and enhance the quality of life for the terminally ill.”
The new law may have been more of a political act than a human one: some lawmakers acknowledged the need to free up space in hospitals, which have experienced an increased number of patients who spend their remaining days there instead of at home, especially in cases where the law demands they be kept alive for as long as possible. Hospitals are having trouble keeping beds open for new patients.
Others urge caution amidst scare tactics. Many opponents of the new law have suggested that hospitals might turn to euthanasia because of the new law, although there is no evidence to support such a claim.