Angry Doctor

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Living Will, Living Won't 2

As expected Mr Reginald's letter brought two letters to the ST forum today. One was from (presumably) a lay-person, and another one by a doctor, which I reproduce here:

IT IS time the medical profession showed clear support for the Advance Medical Directive (AMD). Many doctors are still uncertain as to what to do because of their religious beliefs, and tend to shy away from being witnesses.

The authorities, like the Singapore Medical Association and the Singapore Medical Council, should make it clear that it is not against medical ethics or religious beliefs to act as a witness for patients signing up for the AMD. It is not euthanasia.

Doctors have a professional duty to help patients who want to sign up. It is the patient's choice.

Doctors should be neutral and professional in the practice of medicine.

Dr George Wong Seow Choon

Unfortunately, doctors are not gods, and the SMC and SMA do not and cannot decide what is or is not against religious belief.

While one can argue that practically everything a doctor does in relation to his patient can be called a duty, the law makes it sufficiently clear that in certain cases (such as in abortion and the AMD) a doctor may choose to not engage in such acts or duties. Specifically for the AMD, the law states that:

10. —(1) A medical practitioner or any person who acts under the instructions of a medical practitioner, who for any reason objects to acting on a directive shall register his objection in the prescribed form to this effect and register it with the Registrar and such objection may be revoked by notifying the Registrar in the prescribed form.

(emphasis mine)

Of course the law is not always 'right', but in this case I think it is pretty fair. The doctor is allowed to exercise an option based on his personal beliefs, without imposing it onto his patient. Let's face it, a patient is not going to die if his doctor does not want to witness his AMD (irony intended), and he can always find another doctor who will witness it. Perhaps what is needed here is merely a list of doctors who will witness AMDs.

angry doc is not a religious person, but does not perform abortions (and thanks to a certain somebody no longer inserts IUCDs too), yet witnesses AMDs. The decisions are based on my views on the nature and value of life. I don't believe the SMC or the SMA should be allowed to override them. Certainly not for mere convenience to patients.

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