PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 August, 2007, 12:00am

Clearing up some misconceptions in the euthanasia debate

I refer to your editorial, ('Right to die is for debate, but not assisted suicide', August 12).

I was one of the speakers in the forum you mentioned. Your view against helping the disabled to commit suicide is highly commended. However, I would like to point out a misconception in your editorial.

You wrote that 'a legal right to euthanasia exists only in the Netherlands and Belgium, where it applies only to the terminally ill who are in extreme pain'.

The Netherlands' Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Act of 2002, allows euthanasia for patients who have 'no prospect of improvement, and are experiencing unbearable suffering'.

Patients requesting euthanasia in the Netherlands need not be terminally ill nor in extreme pain.

Patients with permanent disabilities have 'no prospect of improvement' and are candidates for euthanasia there. Patients who suffer from unbearable psychological or spiritual suffering are also candidates for euthanasia.

Even for the terminally ill patients in extreme pain, euthanasia should not be the answer. With the recent advances in palliative care, pain in the terminally ill can be controlled effectively. Patients may also choose to die with dignity by forgoing futile life sustaining treatments. It is important to note that forgoing futile life sustaining treatment is ethically and legally different from euthanasia.

In appropriate circumstances, forgoing futile life-sustaining treatment, in order not to prolong the dying process, is legally acceptable in all parts of the world. I would refer readers to the Hong Kong Hospital Authority's relevant guidelines.

Euthanasia is not only a matter of personal choice. As you rightly pointed out, legalising euthanasia might put pressure on the patients to choose to die for 'the public good'. There is also the danger of going down the slippery slope, as one can see in the Netherlands, where non-terminally ill patients, patients not in extreme pain, children and infants are euthanised.

I am against legalising euthanasia. However, I welcome more public discussion on the issue. It is important that misconceptions about euthanasia are clarified in the community, and that society gives more attention and concern to the plight of the terminally ill and chronically disabled patients in Hong Kong.

Tse Chun-yan, Mong Kok

Terminally ill deserve humane treatment

There is a lot of misunderstanding on the practice of euthanasia. First of all, euthanasia is entirely voluntarily and there are no suggestions by the proponents that all terminally ill patients be given euthanasia.

In addition, expenditure for hospice care should be increased. Patients willing to endure the suffering should be supported by the best medicines and care services available. Euthanasia merely gives a humane option to the terminally ill on a case by case basis.

We should focus our attention on developing legislation to ensure the safe practice of euthanasia. One example is the Death with Dignity Act 1997 in the US state of Oregon. The act stipulates patients must be resident in the state, must be aged over 18, must make two oral and one written request for euthanasia, and there must be at least 15 days between the first and the last request.

Also, patients must be terminally ill, with a life expectancy of less than six months. This prognosis must be confirmed by a second consultant physician, both doctors must confirm that the patient is capable of making this decision and both must confirm that the patient does not have a medical condition that impairs their judgment.

Patients must self-administer the lethal medication. Some might even consider that the Death with Dignity Act is too restrictive as it prevents invalids from participating.

We should encourage public debate on the implementation of any legislation and adjust the details to an acceptance level for our community. However, to dismiss the issue is just simply too inhumane for terminally ill patients.

Ko King-tim, Kowloon Tong

More checks needed to protect our trees

Since the collapse of a large section of the 'king' banyan tree in Kowloon Park last Monday, a number of people have expressed concern over the protection of trees in Hong Kong.

I believe it was lack of protection that caused this tree's collapse. The tree's problems began in 1989, when Kowloon Park was built. If officials had done frequent checks, the tree could have been saved.

Problems with trees do not just suddenly appear, and officials need to make frequent checks so they can address any difficulties as soon as possible.

Philip Wai Zhen-kwok, Kwun Tong

Thank you KCRC for quick action on posters

I wrote about publicity material for a Light Rail safety campaign, which showed an elderly woman standing, while two children were seated nearby ('Altered image', August 5).

Within several days of its publication all the signs had been removed.

They are now back in place, but with a difference: the elderly woman is now comfortably sitting and one of the children happily standing.

Thank you, too, to the KCR Corporation for promptly and effectively rectifying what was clearly an inadvertent mistake.

Ian McGerty, Sha Tau Kok

Why is the LPG policy allowed to persist?

I refer to my letter of ('Government has got it wrong on LPG policy', July 15) and the response by David Webb ('Transport policy in need of an overhaul', July 22).

According to Mr Webb, private motorists are precluded from using liquefied petroleum gas, and even fuel-efficient diesel-powered cars, as the result of a government subsidy of the commercial road transport sector.

Could somebody from the government please explain why our lungs, and those of our children, should continue to suffer as a result of this misguided transport policy?

I cannot say that I have been struck by the pleasant odours emanating from minibuses.

The health of the whole community is at stake and not merely the pockets of certain privileged sectors.

I look forward to somebody in power explaining why this retrograde policy should be allowed to persist.

The rest of the world recognises the widespread benefits of LPG. Why not the Hong Kong government?

David Beaves, Clear Water Bay

Real 'stress' is not music at MTR stations

For many years Annelise Connell has been the voice and conscience of many good causes in Hong Kong, and every city needs such a person.

However, it does seem that Ms Connell's incessant 'I will tell you what is good for you' approach to the many problems in our city has reached the stage of pointlessness.

Ms Connell, with the anti-smoking laws now passed, are you bored ('Station 'music' is stressing me out', August 12)?

Is the music in the MTR that bad you feel you have to write to the paper to tell every one you are stressed because of it?

If you want to talk about real stress, think about people working in this city, or spare a thought for all the small business people who have been inconvenienced because of objections to their liquor licence and so forth.

Stephen Anderson, Wan Chai