First aid for healthcare

Is there room to rethink assisted suicide?

Q. Euthanasia is illegal in many countries, but I think in 20 years' time probably more countries will allow some form of assisted suicide, conducted under very strict guidelines. Do you see this becoming legal in Singapore? Can I one day go to Parkway and say I'd like assisted suicide on a particular date and I'd like it to be Medisave deductible as well?

SALMA: I don't see it happening soon but I hope it does because people have a right to decide on their own lives. Assisted suicide and euthanasia are different. The former means that the person himself or herself chooses, but euthanasia could happen even without the person's consent. If somebody has a terminal illness, totally no cure, totally no quality of life, but possibly several more years of suffering, I think the person has a right to choose and society has got no right to stop that person from a choice like that. The issue is not a medical one, but an ethical one. In Singapore, even suicide is illegal, so we have a long way to go. It takes a lot of moral courage to allow something like that because it goes against our natural grain.

BUTEL: Let me bring a personal view on that. My father, when he was 81 years old, had an aneurysm and was in a coma for 18 months. I never thought my father would end his life like this. We had the choice as a family to stop his life as he was brain dead. It was emotionally very trying. Looking back, would you have chosen 18 months of that or termination of his life 18 months back? Whether or not governments should give the means for people to choose, that's for society to decide and I think there should be a debate on that. But I would never criticise someone either for or against because it is such a personal decision.

LOH: If there is a nationwide policy on it, it has to be crafted very carefully and we need to have safeguards. Then perhaps the healthcare providers need to be able to respond to that.

THANA: This can be one of the Singapore Conversation topics where you engage all groups, social, religious and other professionals. People must have the right understanding of what it means.


Whether or not governments should give the means for people to choose, that's for society to decide and I think there should be a debate on that.

JEAN-LUC BUTEL, on whether assisted suicide could become legal in Singapore.

SALMA: In places that allow it, there is a process. Doctors will look at your condition to make sure that you're not mentally depressed. They find that after this, quite a number of people decide they don't want to die and get treated instead. So by asking for this, they get help, people get them involved in society and suddenly life has meaning and they don't end up committing suicide.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 07, 2016, with the headline 'Is there room to rethink assisted suicide?'. Print Edition | Subscribe