Room for both palliative care and euthanasia

I agree with Professor Chong Siow Ann that both palliative care and euthanasia have the same intent and purpose - to alleviate suffering (A good life to the end, or a quick death; Dec 16).

Legalising euthanasia need not inhibit the advancement in palliative care. In Belgium, about one death in 20 results from euthanasia, yet integrated palliative care services thrive there.

Allowing the choice between euthanasia and palliative care need not violate the core tenet of "first, do no harm".

Euthanasia would help a patient in the last stages of a terminal illness under palliative care die peacefully and avoid the traumatic experience of dying of dehydration or starvation.

It is a traumatic experience, even for the loved ones. I was distressed to hear that one of my terminally ill relatives was not given even water during her last days at a hospice three years ago.

Everyone aspires to a good life to the end. But it is highly unlikely that a patient with untreatable and unbearable pain, and having lost his desire to eat or drink, would live a quality life.

Everyone aspires to a good life to the end.

But it is highly unlikely that a patient with untreatable and unbearable pain, and having lost his desire to eat or drink, would live a quality life.

In such a case, euthanasia would be a compassionate option for patients who wish to "die with dignity".

In such a case, euthanasia would be a compassionate option for patients who wish to "die with dignity".

Clearly, "palliative care and euthanasia" is superior to "palliative care or euthanasia" in many ways.

There is certainly a fear that people may use euthanasia for those unable to give consent - those in a vegetative state, severely disabled children and the mentally ill.

It is the responsibility of the legal system in conjunction with doctors' professionalism to ensure that such people are safeguarded from abuses.

S. Ratnakumar

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2017, with the headline 'Room for both palliative care and euthanasia'. Print Edition | Subscribe