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     FrontPage Edition: Wed 26 Nov 2008

Parliamentary Q&A on euthanasia




Question No: 861 Question By: Mdm Halimah Yacob
To ask the Minister for Health
(a) how many countries in the world have practiced euthanasia;
(b) whether euthanasia is being considered in Singapore; and
(c) instead of euthanasia, what more can be done to help Singaporeans better cope with end-of-life issues.
Reply from MOH
Euthanasia is only allowed in Belgium and the Netherlands. In Switzerland and the states of Oregon and Washington in the U.S., doctor-assisted suicide is permissible, but not euthanasia. Both involve performing an act that leads to death. The difference is that while euthanasia allows for the doctor to perform the act, in doctor-assisted suicide, the patient performs the act himself and the doctor only provides the lethal prescription.
My Ministry is promoting Advance Medical Directive (AMD) and palliative care. AMD is about letting nature takes its course for the terminally ill at the last stage of their lives; AMD is about not mindlessly postponing death through futile medical interventions. AMD is not euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide. I do not think that Singaporeans are ready to accept euthanasia.
Instead, we should focus on providing good palliative care for the dying and getting people to think about and plan for the kind of care they want at the end of their lives. Death should not be a taboo subject. There must be more public discussion about death and end-of-life matters. I therefore welcome the recent public debate about euthanasia. It has raised public awareness about palliative care and the frustrations of some terminally ill and their caregivers.
My Ministry will help the terminally ill cope better with end-of-life issues. First, we are working with the hospice and palliative care community to expand their capacity and extend their reach. We will provide greater support to the dying persons and their caregivers, while managing their needs sensitively.
Second, we are getting more doctors and nurses to train in palliative care. Palliative care is now a medical subspecialty and we will offer more training opportunities in it.
Third, we are working with nursing homes to consider providing palliative care and to help their residents with proper end-of-life planning.
Death is a certainty and while it is not welcomed, a good death, I assume, is the aspiration of all. A good death may not come naturally and proper advance planning is more likely to deliver one.

Source: News 17 Nov 2008

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