Time to talk about new laws on dying

DR CHONG Siow Ann's commentary is timely and enlightening ("Rage, rage against the (prolonged) dying of the light"; last Saturday).

I agree that "modern medicine allows doctors to prolong life by artificial means - sometimes to the detriment of the patient's well-being".

My father suffered from terminal cancer, with further treatment not possible.

All of us, including my father, knew that he was dying, but he was conscious and suffered severe pain and mental agony for months, because, although he wanted to go quickly and peacefully, we, the doctors, continued to keep him alive - to suffer.

This is because the law says so.

Where is the logic?

The law was enacted hundreds of years ago, and the Hippocratic Oath was enunciated thousands of years ago in Greece.

I agree with Dr Chong that we need to discuss end-of-life issues, even assisted suicide.

The Advance Medical Directive could not be used for my father, because it does not go far enough. It applies only to the unconscious patient.

It is the dying patient who is conscious and suffering who needs to be relieved of his suffering.

The dying patient should have the right to decide for himself how and when he should go.

It is not the doctors, the relatives, nor society who should decide for him.

There is no question of abuse. Most people do not like to talk about dying and are very confused about the subject.

Because of this, there is a pressing need for a forum to be set up to openly discuss this issue and formulate new rules to update the law in Singapore.

George Wong Seow Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2015, with the headline 'Time to talk about new laws on dying'. Print Edition | Subscribe