Korean Law Relevant to Bioethical Issues and Its Problems


  • Kyung-Suk Choi


This paper explains current Korean law related to several main issues in bioethics such as a legal status of an embryo, abortion, criteria of death, euthanasia, refusal of life-sustaining treatment, human subject research, and assisted reproductive technology. I presents some problems of acts relevant to bioethical issues in Korea referring to Civil Act, Criminal Act, Bioethics and Safety Act, Mother and Child Health Act, and Internal Organs, etc. Transplant Act.

For embryonic research, Bioethics and Safety Act allows research on spare embryos. This means that an embryo does not have the same status as a person. The Act allows the production of SCNT embryos only for research. This shows that SCNT embryos are considered to be different from spare embryos. Mother and Child Health Act presents justification for which abortion is allowed and does not accept social and economic reasons. But some justification has problems. Mother and Child Health Act does not reflect current genetic test. Korea adopts still the criteria of cardiopulmonary death even though a patient with whole brain death may give their organs after the judgment of whole brian death. This paper argues that the discussion of criteria of death should be separated from organ donation. Grandma Kim’s case made an important landmark in Korean discussion of euthanasia and the refusal of life-sustaining treatment. However, this case also shows that it is hard to discern hastening death from not prolonging natural death. I emphasize that any legislated act will be abused without the improvement of medical insurance for palliative care. Korea does not have any comprehensive act to cover human subject research in general. Especially there is no law to regulate non-genetic research using human material as well as non-invasive human subject research. We have to legislate regulations for human subject research in general.

Author Biography

Kyung-Suk Choi

School of Law, Ewha Womans University, Korea





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