Breakthrough in End of Life Care

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In this episode of the Breakthrough podcast, we delve into a topic that affects us all – end-of-life care. Despite the importance of this subject, discussions around it often remain taboo in Asian culture. However, there has been significant progress in palliative care and addressing end-of-life issues in recent years. Joining us today is Dr. Mervyn Koh, a palliative care specialist with 15 years of experience, to shed light on the breakthroughs in end-of-life care.

Dr. Koh highlights the cultural taboos in Singapore regarding end-of-life discussions. Many individuals grew up in households where the topic of death was avoided. However, he emphasizes that these conversations are essential and can be initiated when one is still in good health.

Palliative care in Singapore has evolved significantly in the past few decades. Dr. Koh explains that it began with efforts at St. Joseph Nursing Home and has since spread to various hospitals and home care providers. Home hospice care is now widely available across the island, giving patients the option to spend their final days at home, in a nursing home, or in a hospital, depending on their preferences.

Dr. Koh provides two contrasting examples of patients’ end-of-life experiences. The first illustrates the importance of communicating one’s wishes in advance. In this case, a lack of clear instructions from the patient led to a difficult decision for their family. In contrast, the second example involves a patient who had expressed their preferences earlier, making the process smoother for their family.

Dr. Koh emphasizes the importance of having these conversations with loved ones. By discussing one’s healthcare wishes in advance, it can alleviate the burden on family members when making difficult decisions during critical times.

The Singaporean government has been actively involved in promoting end-of-life care, especially focusing on dying at home. Dr. Koh mentions initiatives to increase home hospice care capacity, support for home hospice providers, and protocols for compassionate discharge from hospitals. Recruitment of qualified staff remains a challenge in the field of palliative care.

Dr. Koh advocates living intentionally, without regrets. He shares a personal story of spending quality time with his grandmother before her health deteriorated, emphasizing the importance of cherishing moments with loved ones.

In summary, Dr. Koh provides three key takeaways:

  1. Have important conversations with loved ones about end-of-life preferences.
  2. Foster a compassionate and caring society by volunteering and supporting worthy causes.
  3. Live intentionally, without regrets, and cherish moments with loved ones.

End-of-life care is a topic that deserves open and compassionate discussions. Dr. Mervin Koh’s insights shed light on the progress made in Singapore’s palliative care landscape and the importance of addressing this crucial aspect of life. By having these conversations and supporting initiatives, we can ensure that individuals receive the care they desire at the end of their lives, promoting dignity and comfort during their final days.