When you want to die and your family refused to let you go

By 22 June, 2016Thoughts

Imagine the scenario in which you want to die naturally, but your family refused to let you go.

Recently, I watched a documentary on Talking Point with regards to ‘Good Death’ (you can watch the video here); basically there was this man, Mr Kwok Fook Chuen, who had renal failure and refused dialysis option. So naturally, the outcome of his choice is imminent death. Of course this triggered immerse grief for his wife, but she eventually accepts that it was his choice and honoring his wishes became central to their shared values.

I am also pretty sure that it wasn’t easy for Mr Kwok to arrive at his decision – his family probably wanted him to stay alive through the dialysis option – hence, it takes much understanding, communication and openness to ensure that his decision get respected.

I recalled having to do clinical supervision about a case, (of which the details are confidential of course), but the theme of the case is similar to the one above, revolved around the ambivalent feeling of (i) refusing treatment to end a perceived poorer quality of life verses (ii) continued treatment so as to continue living.

There is really no easy answer; for such decisions are irrevocable and would naturally be emotionally daunting to execute. In many cases, individual needs are also enmeshed and blurred – alongside with family, cultural and spiritual dimensions. Sometimes, life doesn’t even seem to belong to us anymore because someone else wants us to live for them.

It is easy for the fighters to claim the path of continued treatment because they hold the value of overcoming personal battles with high regards. However, life is certainly a war that we will all lose ultimately. We could only seek to win those small skirmishers… knowing fully that someday, all our troops will be expanded and then it is game over.

Perhaps the key lies in having genuine intimate conversation with one another and the acceptance that some people do not value being a fighter as much as others. Perhaps they desire a quality of life that is pain-free with less physical suffering and this is equally a noble pursuit.

Frankly, both decisions require immerse courage; either acknowledging that death is inevitable with the wisdom to focus on the present or to be the proud warrior who charge alone towards an army of relentless undead soldiers… attempting to secure one more day of victory.

When they say one man’s meat is another man’s poison – perhaps, we do have different appetite for the type of suffering we are willing to stomach.

About Mark Lin

Mark Lin works in Montfort Care and is the brain for the Good Death project. He has been working in the social service sector since 2010 with a passion to serve the elderly population in Singapore. He loves potatoes very much


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