• Vol. 29 No. 1, 50–56
  • 15 January 2000

End-of-life Issues—Preferences and Choices of a Group of Elderly Chinese Subjects Attending a Day Care Centre in Singapore

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ABSTRACT

Introduction: This was an exploratory study that was intended to provide a descriptive analysis of the choices and preferences of a group of elderly Chinese subjects attending a day care centre in Singapore with regard to end-of-life issues.

Materials and Methods: A semi-structured one-to-one interview was conducted to collect data from the subjects. Qualitative techniques were used to analyse the data.

Results: Forty-three subjects were interviewed. The median age was 71 years. There were more women than men (58.1% vs. 41.9%). The predominant religion was Buddhism/Taoism. 83.7% and 76.7% of the subjects preferred to be told of the diagnosis and prognosis of a terminal illness, respectively. The person most preferred to reveal the diagnosis was the attending doctor (60.5%). About 83.7% of the subjects have never heard of the Advanced Medical Directive Act, while 37.2% agreed that making an advanced directive would be necessary. Twenty-three (53.5%) would choose the doctor, while 15 (34.9%) would choose a family member as a surrogate decision-maker. Twenty-two (51.2%) thought that euthanasia should be allowed, while 15 (34.9%) disagreed. With regard to supportive measures at the end of life, 67.4% wanted cardiopulmonary resuscitation, 62.8% wanted artificial ventilation, 55.8% wanted nasogastric feeding, 65.1% wanted intravenous hydration and 41.9% wanted renal dialysis.

Conclusion: There is a need for closer communication between older persons and their carers with regard to end-of-life care. The attending doctor appears to have an important role in this respect.


Doctors caring for elderly, dying and terminally ill patients are often faced with the dilemma of having to make difficult decisions especially regarding treatment where the benefit and burden is not clearly defined. Issues relating to death and dying, such as whether to disclose the diagnosis and prognosis to patients, the patient’s right to self-determination, the use of futile but burdensome interventions and the legalisation of euthanasia are relevant to today’s practice of medicine.

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