Letters to the Editor, March 24, 2013

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 4:49am

Worth looking at humanism of euthanasia

The superb award-winning film Amour now showing here made me think of two things.

First, that life for too many of Hong Kong's elderly is no bed of roses because, despite being one of the richest places in Asia, the government here is not doing enough to care properly for its aged and ageing population.

Secondly, like Switzerland and a couple of states in the US, Hong Kong could become a civilised Asian enclave that allows euthanasia for end-of-life patients who wish to be put out of their misery.

In the US, some doctors maintain medical files marked DNR ("Do not resuscitate"), and nowadays people can draw up what is known as living wills. These are documents declaring that the person does not wish to be rescued medically in case of incapacitation.

Not too long ago I had a brother stricken with Parkinson's disease, which rendered him paralysed and mute for several years before he died. If he'd had a living will, I'm sure he would not have wished to prolong his agony.

In Amour, the long-suffering husband took it upon himself to put an end to his beloved's suffering. That, I think, took great courage - and boundless love.

Beatriz Taylor, Cheung Chau


Ruffled by vet's advice about feathered pets

I refer to the "About Pets" column ("Furry friends need more than a home-alone life", March 17).

When combined with reading a similar article in the same column in November last year ("Small birds are an ideal fit for HK apartments"), they make for uncomfortable reading.

Veterinarian Dr Patricia Shuen, in the latter article, encourages the keeping of lovebirds, cockatiels and budgerigars in a cage where, at a minimum, it is big enough for the bird to fully extend its wings without touching the sides of the cage.

Granted she does go on to write: "Ideally, it is best for the bird's general well-being when it is able to fly when in the cage." The headline suggests that, because many people in the city live in inadequate housing, it is all right if their pets do, too.

At least in the About Pets column ("'Talking' birds have widespread appeal", March 3), we have Dr Isobel Jenkins saying that the of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, of which she is part, "doesn't recommend keeping birds in cages, [as] they need to have the ability to fly freely".

In their natural habitat, birds forage for food, find mates, build nests and fly for hundreds - if not thousands - of miles.

The keeping of birds as pets seems thoroughly outdated. Just because we can breed birds or capture them from the wild, doesn't mean we should.

A. Davy-Hou, Sai Kung


Don't buy into the myth of 'toxic' LEDs

Robert Hanson is incorrect when he states that fluorescent and LED lamps both contain mercury ("Make trade in parallel goods fair for all", March 17). LED lamps are a "solid state" light-emitting electronic component that do not contain mercury and do not emit any UV light rays.

Dr Hanson's comments linking LED lamps with numerous health issues are gossip - there is not a single study to indicate otherwise.

Fluorescent lamps have been in use worldwide for more than 60 years. They are glass tubes filled with a gas mixture, with as little as 1.5 milligrams of mercury.

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are just smaller. Britain's Health Protection Agency has conducted repeated and extensive testing over the last 20 years, and has stated that the very low levels of UV emissions do not present an acute nor significant chronic health hazard.

An 800-lumen LED lamp (the equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent) from Philips or Cree uses only 10 watts (83 per cent energy savings) and now retails below US$15.

Additionally, major LED and commercial light-fixture makers are now offering office ceiling fixtures with a warranty of up to 10 years and higher energy efficiency than fluorescents.

A recent Reuters story states that if half of China's lights were LEDs, the electricity saved would be 2.5 times that of the annual output of the country's Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower project by capacity.

Proper fluorescent bulb design and recycling are disposal issues.

Hong Kong's Electrical and Mechanical Services Department can and probably should regulate the quality of all fluorescent lamps that can be sold for use in Hong Kong, specifying the maximum mercury content and, as is done in other countries, minimum light output efficiencies as well.

Ralph Bishop, Pok Fu Lam


Funds best used for future educators

I refer to the letter from C. Chan ("Students' cash better spent on teachers", March 9). I am in general agreement with the idea that there are better ways to spend the HK$480 million (from the budget) to sponsor students - who might simply be attracted by the money - who want to study in universities abroad.

Your correspondent suggests using the money for in-service teachers so they can "study and learn something new". But I think it should be allocated to undergraduates who are studying any education-related degree and those studying for a postgraduate diploma in education, rather than in-service teachers.

Innovative ideas and education philosophy, in keeping with the New Senior Secondary curriculum, are needed.

Undergraduates and postgraduates with relevant qualifications can exert significant influence on the education sector.

Those students have a passion to teach - otherwise, they would not be choosing this programme.

Giving monetary support or resources of any kind to them will never be a waste as their dedication and enthusiasm to teach has already been ensured.

After two to three years, these pillars of society, especially in the field of education, would be mature enough to make significant contributions.

Unlike training in-service teachers, in which the results can be seen immediately, this approach is a rather long-term investment, but a worthy one.

With sufficient training and guidance, education graduates would stay in their career longer and have a significant impact.

Ryan Lee, Sai Kung


Impressed by pupils' art exhibition

Thursday, March 21 appeared to be the last day of an all-too-brief exhibition of photographic artworks on display in the lobby of the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui.

There has been much talk lately about encouraging public interest in the arts.

Well, here was an inspiring example of how enriching art can be, both for the creator and the viewer.

With the theme of a "Kaleidoscopic World", a group of students at St. Joseph's Primary School created a dazzling look at the world, both great and small as they saw it in Hong Kong.

The choice of subject matter and their stylish rendering was both captivating and inspiring. And the most surprising thing was that these talented and perceptive photographers are primary students aged eight to 12.

If the exhibition is actually extended I would urge readers to find a moment to visit this little exhibition.

I was charmed by the little guides in their school uniforms who carefully explained the works to visitors each afternoon, in both fluent Cantonese and English.

On seeing the confidence and freedom of expression so beautifully manifested by these young people under the exemplary guidance of their art teacher, gave me a surge of hope for the future of this city, where children such as these blossom.

This, I believe, is why art is vital.

Susannah Hirst, Mid-Levels


How cadaver donation can hurdle taboo

I refer to the report, "University urges public to donate bodies for research", March 4.

I think the main reason for the shortage of human cadavers for research and teaching is Chinese taboo.

Most of the people in Hong Kong still think that dead bodies should be kept intact. Only a few people are willing to donate their bodies - or even their organs - to science.

In addition, some people who want to donate their bodies face resistance from their families. This is why there are only three to five cadavers received by the medical faculty each year.

There is also a lack of promotion activities or advertisements to encourage this type of donation.

These kinds of topics are also seldom taught in primary and secondary schools.

The first "body donation day" organised by the University of Hong Kong is a great start.

There should be more of these activities to ease the shortage of human cadavers for research and teaching.

Crystal Chan Yuen-ying, Kwai Chung