Euthanasia has support among paralysed people

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 September, 2005, 12:00am

Disabled need much more support, survey concludes

The government and community was criticised yesterday for a lack of support for paralysed patients after a survey found more than half of such patients would consider euthanasia.

Over a year, the 1st Step Association interviewed 66 people who had at least two limbs paralysed and found 56 per cent had considered ending their lives after they became handicapped.

The study found 72 per cent of respondents agreed with euthanasia, although it is illegal.

Of those who would consider euthanasia, 83 per cent said they would rather die than depend on others to take care of them.

About 80 per cent said they could not accept the fact they were handicapped and 62 per cent said they felt they had no dignity in their lives.

Association chairman Leung Choy-yan said the figures would drop sharply if the disabled received more support.

'When they have negative thoughts, euthanasia might not be the best option,' he said.

'But the figure showed that they think this option should not be denied.'

Mr Leung said the association had no definite position on euthanasia and preferred it to be put to public debate.

The case of Tang Siu-pun (Ah Pun), the quadriplegic who appealed to the chief executive in late 2003 for the legalisation of euthanasia, showed society and the government had not given the disabled enough support.

'The physical support might have been improved, but not psychological help,' he said.

A wheelchair-bounded woman killed herself last month in Kowloon Bay after rolling off a metre-high platform and hitting her head on the ground. She was believed to have been suffering depression after becoming a paraplegic. 'I knew her for 20 years and I knew she had been very unhappy,' Mr Leung said.

A 49-year-old woman, Poon Wai-mooi, who has been paralysed and in a wheelchair for more than 30 years, said she supported the legalisation of euthanasia but believed society would never allow it.

She said she also had considered ending her life when she became paralysed due to an illness at the age of 16. Although she decided to refuse resuscitation in hospital, she has allowed hospital staff to save her in the past.

'Somehow I just feel that my life's not finished yet,' she said.

A 20-year-old man, who identified himself as Mr Chong, said he also had thought about ending his life after a traffic accident a year ago left him a paraplegic.

But he said he then realised there were people worse off and has decided to resume his studies if he can find a school with wheelchair facilities.

The association's survey found 71 per cent of respondents had not studied in a local institution in the past six months.

It urged the government to provide more opportunities for the handicapped to study and improve public education to minimise discrimination.