A Time For Compassion

The COVID-19 pandemic is more than a medical problem – it has caused much social, economic, psychological as well as spiritual distress. We are at the dawn of a new era in human history and it is a time for change so that human society can evolve into a spiritual community that is filled with compassion.

We need to change our mindset about health, healing, death and dying. We need a hospice care approach in medical care. The philosophy of hospice care is directed towards the well being of the patient – to provide them with the best care till death. Hospice care is not about dying well but helping patients to live as best as they can till they rest in peace. An awareness of hospice care can help us to have hard conversations about death and dying. Hospice care was a response to the dehumanization of modern medicine as patients’ needs and well being were sacrificed on the altar to medicine – an idol with clay feet.  One component of hospice care in the early part of a terminal disease like cancer is palliative care, which is the relief of symptoms to improve the quality of life. The other component is end of life care when the patient enters into the dying phase of the illness.

There is much fear about COVID-19 as it is seen as a death sentence. But it is just one of the causes of death in those who are already terminally ill from underlying serious medical conditions. Hence we will have deaths in this group of patients irrespective of their vaccination status. Furthermore,  we need to remember that more than 98% of patients with COVID-19 will recover. Unfortunately, a small percentage of healthy patients will succumb to the virus as in other viral infections.

In medieval Europe in the 14th century, bubonic plague (the Black Death) killed over 20 million people – two thirds of Europe’s population. Throughout the 1300s and 1400s, barely a year went by without famines and wars. In the face of so much death and destruction, people turned to religion to help them understand what happened at the end of life.

The fear of death and the focus on death from the COVID-19 virus keep us from creative solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic.  When the pandemic began in 2010, there was much interest in the spiritual dimension of life. Unfortunately, this has waned with time.  One of the important pillars in hospice care is spiritual care.

Covid-19 virus is a messenger to remind us of our need for spiritual values and to face the reality of death by adopting the philosophy of hospice care. When we have the right spiritual values, we will be able to weather the COVID-19 storm much better.

The focus on vaccination which divides society into the vaccinated and unvaccinated is unhealthy. Policies that appear to discriminate and penalize the unvaccinated have caused division and are counterproductive especially when vaccinations do not provide absolute protection nor prevent the spread of the virus.

The pandemic has revealed  our interdependence on one another. We need to stand together as one united nation. What is most important is not our vaccination status but a mindset to watch out and care for one another. We need to listen to one another rather than to judge or to put labels on each other. This is not a time to use fear to force compliance to rules but a time to mobilize and unite our people with the spirit of compassion to stand together for Singapore.

What we really need is a “spiritual vaccination” against pride, greed and lust by cultivating the habits of humility, contentment and love. We need unity and not division if we are to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Without true community, we will not survive.