Deadly words give euthanasia a bad rap

Euthanasia has been made to sound cruel, owing to the choice of words used to describe it: administer death, self-annihilation, suicide, the hand that extinguishes life (Different approaches to a good and dignified death, by the Singapore Hospice Council, Dec 28, 2017; and Consider legalising euthanasia, by Mr Seah Yam Meng, Aug 1).

If it is to relieve pain and suffering, why can't it be seen as a kind act? Is this not the reason why the Advance Medical Directive is allowed in Singapore?

Modern medicine facilitating euthanasia does not make it a cruel act. Certainly, medicine is not used here to "annihilate life". Thus, the choice of words matters.

As long as euthanasia is not used to get rid of elderly people, and it is a personal decision taken rationally by someone to relieve himself of pain and suffering, as in the Netherlands, it is not wrong.

"Let him go; let his pain go" should be the refrain to adopt.

The big worry is, of course, that an elderly person may be pushed into ending his life by his family, who may subtly suggest that he does so to spare them from any financial burden.

This will lead to society becoming utilitarian, where we devalue the old, the frail and the disabled, and make such people feel that they are not worth the trouble any more.

Caveats, therefore, must be put in place for such cases.

Ideally, religion should not enter the equation on the issue of euthanasia, and neither should the majority view or legislation - for this is a personal choice.

Only the person suffering knows what he is going through and is thus best placed to decide for himself.

We must never assume we know what is best for him.

Wong Horng Ginn

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2018, with the headline 'Deadly words give euthanasia a bad rap'. Print Edition | Subscribe