Should Euthanasia Be Made Legal in Singapore?

by | Aug 18, 2018

Should Euthanasia be made legal in Singapore? This question warrant as much controversy as allowing same-sex marriage in Singapore; the only difference is that you don’t have a collective bunch of individuals coming together in Singapore to campaign for the right ‘to-die’. But it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the day that some folks would march towards Hong Lim Park to campaign over this issue. Having an open society surely means easy access to new ideas and information, which may be good for a progressive society, but as values, ‘progressive values’ may unknowingly become ‘regressive’.

Should Euthanasia be made legal in Singapore? Or should be double down our effort on palliative care? Eventually, what would appear as humane – of allowing one to minimise suffering and pain during end-of-life situation – becomes highly debatable. Almost like deciding if Chicken Rice or Laksa should become Singapore’s national dish.

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Let me sum up the Straits Times forum debate below:

It all started from a report stating that the number of suicides among elderly hit record high and all of a sudden, the topic of Euthanasia magically came back with a vengeance, probably after the endless debate on social inequality has taken a fatigue toil. Mr Seah Yam Meng fired the first shot into the forum conversation, stating that Singapore should consider legalising euthanasia.

Sometimes, I find it quite interesting how one topic matter would fuel the birth of another. Frankly, suicide and euthanasia are two separate matters although they both involved death. Just like chicken rice’s ‘Rice’ and laksa noodle’s ‘Noodle’ may be carbohydrate but they are essentially two different type of food materials, using different set of cutlery and for different appetite desire.

Same same but not the same.

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Regardless, proponent of Euthanasia emphasise on one’s right for choices. Marcus Tan calls for an option for Euthanasia to be available for cases where the dying process is extremely miserable and suffering. Wong Horng Ginn zero specifically on what I classify as a ‘marketing communication’ issue: that the word ‘Euthanasia’ was made to sound cruel and should be addressed. He also calls for the decision on Euthanasia to be exclusively secular, where religion should not influence the development of such an act. Various people who supported also caution on the need on stringent criteria for eligibility, the issue of burden and the need to safeguard vulnerable people from being exploited

Opponent of Euthanasia focused on the slippery slope argument: Natalie Ang warned about the erosion of traditional family values and intensify the issue of liability on elderly people. And of course, Dr Neo Han Yee and Dr Ong Eng Koon from the Ethics Advisory Committee under Singapore Hospice Council promoted increasing accessibility and use of palliative care option as opposed to Euthanasia.

Then, opposition started intensifying: Carmen Tan Kah Min argued that people do not always know what is best for them and Rachel Tan Poh Yin accusing Euthanasia of being a matter of ‘Gloried Suicide’

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Personally for me, Euthanasia is inherently problematic when it comes to implementation: if we put aside the contentious issues on morality and not start the debate on what’s right or wrong, practically speaking, it belongs to the kind of policy that will somehow not serve the original purpose of what it intended to do over time. Let me explain a little: one would often start the argument on Euthanasia by relating it to terminal illness such as cancer and how the decision to end one’s life brings about less suffering and greater relief for the individual. However, in time to come, the goal post criteria on who will and should qualify for legalise death will eventually shift – from terminal illness to psychological distress from living. David Goodall is a good example of such death – he did not have any terminal illness, he just wanted to die because his functional status had deteriorated and he felt it was time to go. You can read more about him from Euthanasia in Singapore That Is Not What You Think It Is

The logic is simple: suffering is postmodernist subjective. And because it is intrinsically subjective, you will find it hard to segregate whose suffering is worst, given everyone has different threshold toward suffering. Hence, it’s really arduous to craft a social policy catering to such an issue because you don’t know what a baseline looks like.

What is suffering? How do we know that our alternative to deal with suffering are ineffective? And if so, how do we prove it so as to effective a policy change?

And one damned but honest truth about allowing Euthanasia in any society is really about cost saving. Period. The dosage to kill you will bring about far greater saving than any medication, care institution or treatment you will ever encounter in the healthcare system. Regardless of philosophical orientation, one would find it hard to shake away this conspiracy theory: icing one’s autonomy and right-to-die above what shady economic valuation this social policy would bring about beneath the equation.

Hence, government will find it hard to implement a solution like Euthanasia because they will find it hard to dissociate with this concept of cost saving because the truth is that there will be significant cost saving involved.

Hence the debate about Euthanasia is really about: is it about the Money (resource) or Autonomy? (the right-to-die)


Drop me a comment. Would love to hear your views on Euthanasia.

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