Not enough facilities for people to die with dignity in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 5:22pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 8:48pm

I agree, in part, with the letter from Teresa Ng (“Consultations about final days important”, October 11). However, having had the unenviable experience of watching my sister die in the UK three years ago and my wife die this year in Hong Kong, both from cancer, and both following an extended period of illness, I am shocked by the stark differences that exist between the two places.

Where in Hong Kong the ongoing treatment of cancer patients that is available is generally world-class, immediate and can be expensive, Hong Kong lets itself down by having few if any places where such patients, that are neither old nor decrepit, can spend their final days in comfort, other than a hospital.

The UK, on the other hand, while it has the National Health Service (NHS), which provides treatment and support virtually free of cost to patients, can be much slower in either getting the necessary appointments, or in prescribing the types of drugs or treatments, such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

But where the UK and NHS score greatly over Hong Kong is in the provision of both hospice care (that is, a hospital for the dying, for their last few days, weeks or months), and the Macmillan Nurses, who visit the homes of cancer sufferers, can effect changes such as making downstairs bedrooms for those who can’t climb stairs or add safety features to showers if needed. Hong Kong has neither of these.

But while this is showing, from actual experience in the last three years, the differences in treatment for the dying, I don’t agree, as suggested in the letter and a prior article (“Measures to give more dignity to the dying”, October 9), that it should be the elderly only who should be consulted on these matters.

Many terminally ill patients are not that old; my wife was 55. But it is the families, the support group around these patients, who should also have considerable input on how the “final days” should be spent.

Stewart Aldcroft, Lantau