A few months ago, my late friend, a terminal cancer patient who was moved out of the intensive care unit at the Singapore General Hospital, was abruptly asked by a young doctor if she wanted to be resuscitated the next time there was an emergency.
The doctor was from a team that included her attending oncologist.
This conversation took place when her relatives were not around. Earlier that day, she had been in good spirits, laughing with her visitors. The doctor's question caused her extreme distress.
Her encounter was not unique. The sister of another terminal cancer patient told me that her sister was eating well in hospital until she was told that she had to be moved to a hospice. She was left traumatised.
Medical professionals should be more sensitive about a dying patient's mental well-being. It would be ideal to have a team trained to interact with patients and their families, especially if their oncologists are too busy to take on such tasks.
Ong Seok Khim