When bad news on cancer breaks...

SINGAPORE - It is a truism that different people handle life-threatening illnesses in a myriad of unpredictable ways ("Be honest with cancer prognosis" by Mr Aw Yang Kang Ming; Monday).

The strong will handle any bad news resolutely and fight the good fight (often successfully). Others visibly wilt and lose all will to fight if doctors do not couch bad news euphemistically.

Told of an initial diagnosis of late-stage breast cancer, which carries a poor prognosis, my sister fought to the very end, valiantly cooperating with the doctors. Every day on earth was a precious day to be fully savoured.

Another family member, diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer, researched her disease and took the path of least resistance with minimal medical intervention. She died prematurely within months.

It is up to every individual to choose how hard, how long and how much energy and resources to expend on fighting a disease that is often terminal.

Doctors who are true to their calling are obliged to offer any form of recognised management, succour and hope to informed patients.

It is easy to countercheck overly optimistic or unethical medical professionals these days - the information is only a mouse click away and professional second opinions can be easily sought.

Very soon, medical coverage will be extended more comprehensively under MediShield Life.

When insurance is paying the bills, will families choose to extend the lives of their loved ones meaninglessly, against the advice of doctors and the interests of the insurance pool? We will see human nature at work.

- Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

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