Hospice Palliative Care in South Korea: Past, Present, and Future

Hospice palliative care (HPC) in Korea has developed steadily since its introduction in 1965. Currently, HPC in Korea is targeted only towards terminal cancer patients and their families, and the national health insurance scheme covers only inpatient hospice care for said patients. In recent years, healthcare professionals and policy makers began to recognize the need for HPC services in diverse settings including outside hospital boundaries, and for all terminally-ill patients. A law on HPC passed in January 2016 allows terminally-ill patients to refuse life-sustaining treatments, and will likely facilitate further development of HPC services. It is critical for the government and all interested parties in the medical, academic and social sectors to collaborate to ensure its success once it takes effect in 2017. This article will briefly review the half-century history of HPC in Korea, and discuss how to prepare for and cope with death and, thereby, improve the quality of death.

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