Euthanasia contrary to medical ethics

The claim that a consensus among parliamentarians, doctors, legal experts and other stakeholders will resolve dilemmas in euthanasia is deeply mistaken (Consensus among doctors, legal experts can resolve euthanasia dilemmas, by Mr S. Ratnakumar; Nov 14).

All human beings have inherent, equal and inalienable rights, including the right to life, which is protected by various international human rights instruments as well as the Singapore Constitution.

Laws against the killing of patients vindicate and uphold every person's right to life, especially that of the terminally ill or vulnerable.

Medical practice complements these noble goals by preserving life and restoring health.

The raison d'etre of palliative care is to improve quality of life and provide relief from suffering, while euthanasia uses the hand of a doctor to administer death (Different approaches to a good and dignified death; Dec 28, 2017).

Accordingly, euthanasia is contrary to both the law and medical ethics, and should remain so.

Euthanasia violates the "do no harm" principle embodied in the Hippocratic Oath. In some versions of the oath, doctors explicitly vow: "I will not give anyone deadly poison, even when asked."

During the debates on the Advance Medical Directive in Parliament in 1995, the Ministry of Health, the National Medical Ethics Committee and the medical profession in general were all opposed to euthanasia. Similarly, the World Medical Association and its national member associations last year reiterated their "long-standing opposition to physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia on the basis that they constitute the unethical practice of medicine".

Doctors should not be made to serve both life and death.

We must not confuse the noble goal of eliminating suffering with the unethical act of eliminating the sufferer. With the advancement of medical technology, we are more capable than ever to provide better quality medical care.

Likewise, our capacity to show compassion towards the sick and to respect the dignity of all human life should never cease to grow.

Darius Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2018, with the headline 'Euthanasia contrary to medical ethics'. Print Edition | Subscribe