SINGAPORE: Singapore’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, shattered by the death of his wife, asked his doctors about the possibility of euthanasia in his final years, his daughter revealed Monday.
Lee Wei Ling, herself a doctor, wrote in a column for the Straits Times newspaper a day after Singapore celebrated 50 years of independence that the “last few years of Papa’s life without Mama were a sad and difficult time.”
“He raised the topic of euthanasia with his doctors, and they told him that was illegal in Singapore. I also told him it was illegal for me to help him to do so elsewhere,” Lee wrote.
The occasional column by Lee, a senior adviser at the National Neuroscience Institute, is closely watched for glimpses into the private life of Singapore’s most influential family — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is her elder brother.
Lee Kuan Yew’s death at the age of 91 on March 23 after a prolonged stay in hospital due to severe pneumonia triggered an unprecedented outpouring of grief among Singaporeans.
In a book published in 2013, Lee had said he was feeling weaker by the day and wanted a quick death.
He rapidly began to look feeble after his wife of 63 years, Kwa Geok Choo, died in 2010, and he rarely appeared in public in his final years.
Lee had signed an Advance Medical Directive, a legal document instructing doctors not to use any life-sustaining treatment to prolong his life if he was unconscious and considered close to a natural death.
The British-educated lawyer is widely credited for helping to turn Singapore into one of the world’s wealthiest, safest and most stable places, but is also criticized for his iron-fisted rule.
He was prime minister from 1959, when colonial ruler Britain granted Singapore self-rule, to 1990. He led Singapore to independence in 1965 after a brief and stormy union with Malaysia.
He stepped down as prime minister in favor of his deputy Goh Chok Tong, who in turn handed the reins to Lee’s eldest child in 2004.
The former leader died as a sitting MP for the port district of Tanjong Pagar, but retired from advisory roles in government in 2011.