LETTER OF THE WEEK: Are elderly lives worth less than others?

Why is it that when people who are not elderly want to commit suicide, we try to talk them out of it, but when an elderly person wants to commit suicide, we focus on how to make that possible (Consider legalising euthanasia, by Mr Seah Yam Meng; Aug 1)?

If the criterion for euthanasia is an elderly person's assessment of his suffering, and not the nature of his illness, then will we also allow the prescription of lethal drugs for healthy adults who feel they are suffering and opt for death?

As a senior citizen, I am uneasy with letting doctors become involved in euthanasia.

Even the most experienced doctor cannot predict with certainty how long a person battling serious illness will live, or when someone might fall into treatable depression.

Arguments in favour of assisted dying for the elderly are rooted in the belief that the lives of the elderly are not worth as much as other people's.

Such a stand devalues the elderly by giving them less protection from their suicidal desires than others.

The State acts as an impediment to euthanasia not out of archaic cultural conservatism but because it has a duty to protect all its citizens.

Making elderly euthanasia accepted public policy threatens the lives of everyone - not just the elderly but also the poor, mentally ill, disabled and terminally ill.

It opens the door for abuse.

The elderly person may be pressured to end his life prematurely so that he can stop being a burden to his family, or because someone has something to gain, whether financially or emotionally, from his death.

Already, elderly people who are not acutely ill are being dumped in nursing homes because their families consider them a burden.

It is easy to envisage some families steering their elderly relatives towards euthanasia as a permanent solution.

The conversation must move away from how to make suicide possible for elderly people, and towards how their lives have meaning instead.

Cheng Choon Fei