Give terminally ill the right to die with dignity

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 August, 2006, 12:00am

In addition to the 'continue to resuscitate' or 'do not resuscitate' options mentioned in 'Live-or-die document proposed for chronic patients' (August 17), the terminally ill should also be given a third choice - 'physician-assisted dying'.

Without this option, the terminally ill can endure days of severe pain and an undignified death. As a cancer patient, I have a personal stake in the issue and believe this option should be available to every one of us.

Let me remind the political, grandstanding 'patient-rights' groups, and those who object to 'physician-assisted dying' on religious, ethical or moral high grounds, that most of us will be faced with a choice during our last days. You might be enlightened if you saw the issue from the point of view of the terminally ill. I know that I would like to retain my dignity and have my wish of 'physician-assisted dying' respected.

If we choose between 'continue to resuscitate', 'do not resuscitate', or 'die with dignity', it does not mean we take life lightly. Dying with dignity is a humane option and should be our right. A dignified death for the terminally ill should take precedence over the selfishness of the living.

KO KING-TIM, City University

'Long Hair' impressive

As a regular visitor to Hong Kong, I have been impressed by legislator 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung's steadfast commitment to the basic rights that should be accorded to every person: the right to a reasonable minimum wage, universal suffrage, and freedom of expression.

In his unconventional gift-giving, Mr Leung has found a way to demonstrate the contradictions in the upper echelons of Hong Kong's government.

And in his choice of attire, he demonstrates again and again that members of the general public want one of their own to represent them, not another tycoon or member of the elite.

That Simon Ludlow would cite Mr Leung's Che Guevara T-shirt as an 'ironic' gesture is totally off the mark. ('Strange choice?', August 17). Yes, Che's career as a revolutionary was not spotless, but he fought his whole life for the betterment of the little people, not those in power who exploited the masses. It is this spirit of resolve which I believe Mr Leung embodies.

I am deeply saddened by his suggestion that he might not be able to last the term as a legislator (''Long Hair' unsure if he will last the distance', August 11), but the failure is not his. It is Hong Kong that has failed to recognise what he seeks to create for the citizens of this region. If only a few more influential people would appreciate Mr Leung's vision, Hong Kong would be a far better place in which to live. I urge Mr Leung not to give up his fight ... the people here need him.


Hong Kong's scrapyard

A Legislative Council panel is going to investigate misuse of land? Daniel Heung Cheuk-kei deserves an environmental award.

He preserved a piece of the countryside and even beautified it.

We invite the whole of Legco to join us on a tour in the New Territories along the border with the mainland, from Yuen Long to Sheung Shui. This used to be idyllic farmland, but has been transformed into a big scrapyard, comprising scrapyards, car dumps, container yards, truck-repair shops and tyre shops, and the like.

And it is expanding on a daily basis. Who is responsible for licensing these ventures? Or are the majority of them operating without a licence?

By now, everybody in Hong Kong is aware of the air-pollution problem, but in the areas we are talking about, tonnes of dumped toxic materials have polluted the soil, which might be beyond repair.

We're guessing that because these operators are not related to the chief executive, they are exempted from following the rules.

We congratulate the government for ensuring that Mr Heung's former residence will again become a warehouse, which will, no doubt, be transformed into a scrapyard in no time.


Leading by example

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's initiative on smoking is long overdue ('Billionaire mayor pledges big boost to smoking fight', August 17). Why should a world city have to put up with smoking in public places and especially in restaurants?

Smoking in public places has been banned in many places, so why not in Hong Kong? This city needs a Michael Bloomberg or two - or maybe Hongkongers are just not health-conscious enough.


Women are revered

I find it highly offensive that Amrit Dhillon should refer to the ritual of karwa chauth as a stupid superstition ('Ties that bind', August 14).

And I am stunned that she used the example of raksha bandhan to say that 'it is one of the festivals that reveals the greater value placed by Indian culture on men than women'.

Raksha bandhan, as any Indian will tell you, is a festival in which sisters are pampered with the choicest gifts and clothes. It is one of their favourite days. On this day, a brother will do anything that his sister asks of him. I have never seen a similar tradition anywhere else in the world.

Besides raksha bandhan, there are nine other days on which people pray to the Mother Goddess and worship only females. Therefore, I don't see how Dhillon can say there are no festivals or rites devoted to women.


How to curtail costs

In 'Health-care winners and losers' (August 18), George Cautherley stated that a health-care system's financing mechanism is also an income-redistribution system - shifting from tax financing to private financing benefits the healthy and wealthy at the expense of the unhealthy and poorer members of society.

While this is true, there is another fundamental issue - the elasticity of health-care demands. When one has a disease, one seeks medical care.

At a glance, health-care demands are inelastic. But it is not so. In a tax-financing system, everyone demands the best possible quality of care, as it is other people's money. In a private-financing system, one may settle for second best - one example is drugs which can do the job, but with more side-effects.

Migrating from a tax- to a private-financing system introduces more elasticity and responsibility. Resources would be used more rationally, as every citizen would exercise better judgment.

This would help curtail the ever-increasing expenditure in health care and would help build a more sustainable system.


Keep a cool head

I appreciate the efforts by Friends of the Earth and other green groups to create a greener world. But I wish they would offer more constructive criticism. I refer specifically to their findings on inside temperatures.

On buses, for example, the temperature might have been set at 25 degrees Celsius. But when the buses start filling up, carbon dioxide and body heat raises the temperature inside the buses. This is common sense.

Moreover, every time the door is opened, heat from outside enters the bus, raising the temperature inside. And when there are just a few passengers left, the bus is likely to be too cold as a result of the reduced body heat.

May I suggest to bus companies that drivers and/or attendants at bus terminals should adjust the temperature inside the vehicles at various times of the day, according to the anticipated number of passengers.

DOREEN HO, North Point

Buying time

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women worldwide and the fourth most common in Hong Kong. Each year 500, perhaps more, women in Hong Kong are diagnosed with cervical cancer and have to undergo, in most instances, quite drastic treatment. Of those women, 150 die.

This doesn't have to happen. The Hong Kong Cancer Fund has been instrumental in developing an extremely well-run and accessible public programme for cervical cancer screening.

And now, science has delivered a silver bullet in the form of a vaccine that can eliminate the risk of cervical cancer for life. The problem in Hong Kong will be cost, and the need for the government to move quickly.

To be most effective, the vaccine needs to be given to young women between the ages of 11 and 15. Hong Kong has approximately 32,000 girls in this age range.

The government could perhaps negotiate a per-vaccine cost of HK$585. That would mean a total cost of HK$56 million.

By vaccinating the first vector of Hong Kong women, we could stop the cervical cancer train dead in its tracks immediately and buy enough time for the government and the private sector to develop a longer-term solution.