Healthcare subsidies should be given without prejudice

I am shocked that Professor Chia Kee Seng, dean of the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, has stated that if he were a smoker and were to get cancer, heart attack or any other smoking-related ailment, he would bear the full cost of his treatment and not expect any government healthcare subsidies (More can be done to stub it out, says expert; July 9).

This is an extreme view, coming from someone in the healing profession.

Does this mean someone who works in isocyanate manufacturing or deals with asbestos, and develops respiratory-related illness due to his work should be held accountable for his poor choice of career and be made to pay the full cost of his treatment?

Should the obese be punished for making poor dietary choices? Would we engage in eugenics and sterilise mentally ill patients next?

The Government provides subsidies to offset the bills of people needing care, without any prejudice as to why such care is needed.

Although Prof Chia is not wrong to say that smokers' right to smoke must be balanced with responsibility, we must not forget compassion in medicine.

Doctors must remember that one of the tenets of medicine is "first, do no harm".

Michael Loh Toon Seng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2017, with the headline 'Healthcare subsidies should be given without prejudice'. Print Edition | Subscribe