Shau Kei Wan tragedy sparks debate on euthanasia

June 08, 2017 14:46
Euthanasia is an issue that cannot be avoided by any civilized society, according to a legislator. Photo:

An 80-year-old man who killed his paralyzed wife in Shau Kei Wan did it to spare her from further suffering, his younger brother said.

He said the condition of his sister-in-law had deteriorated when he visited the couple during the Tuen Ng festival, news website reports.

“Half of her body was paralyzed. My brother gave her massages, cooked for her and bathed her,” he said.

He said that as euthanasia is illegal in Hong Kong, his brother had no choice but to kill his wife to end her misery.

In December, Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man said the government had no plans to legalize euthanasia or hold any public consultations on it.

Ko said there had been some requests for euthanasia from terminally ill patients who later changed their minds after being given proper palliative care.

Ko said patients can use advance directive to spell out decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time.

Lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun, who represents the social welfare functional constituency, said euthanasia is an issue civilized societies cannot avoid.

He said he hoped the Shau Kei Wan tragedy could induce more public discussions on the controversial subject.

Former lawmaker Cheung Kwok-che, said that while society can discuss and debate euthanasia, legislation alone cannot help prevent cases as happened in Shau Kei Wan.

Cheung said there are are strict requirements for legal euthanasia to be given, including certain medical conditions, and not just the will of the patient.

According to Ko, euthanasia is only legal in a few countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Edward Leung Man-fuk, chairperson of the Hong Kong Association of Gerontology, said euthanasia or advance directive is the giving up of interventional treatment on a terminally ill patient. However, such conditions are not applicable for patients who suffered a stroke.

Leung said it is more important to improve the support system of the patients’ caregivers to avoid tragedies.

With Hong Kong’s population rapidly aging, Leung said the government should review the relevant policies to tackle the issue.

In Taiwan, family caregivers can opt to take a short break from their long-term caregiving with government providing temporary caregivers.

This way, family caregivers who can choose to stay on premises provided by the government for a short period, can take a break from the burdens of looking after ailing family members.

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