Her World Malaysia|July 2016

Dealing with death is not an easy task, but Felicia Chang is committed to being a palliative care doctor who alleviates the pain of her patients.

A lot of negativity and fear is attached to the term ‘palliative care’. Many assume that once a patient is referred to a palliative care doctor, all possible treatments have failed. But palliative care isn’t about giving up or losing hope. Rather, it’s about improving the quality of life of patients with life-threatening illnesses. Despite the constant backlash hurled at this form of specialised medical care, palliative care doctors go the extra mile to care for and comfort those in need. They believe that an illness does not merely affect the physical body, but also one’s mental and emotional health. It’s certainly not easy to prepare patients for the arrival of death, but this is what doctors like Felicia Chang do on a daily basis.

Her name may not ring any bells, but Felicia’s work as a palliative care doctor commands respect and admiration. While her peers chose to pursue careers in more prominent medical specialities, she took the road less travelled to become a palliative care doctor who helps terminally ill patients live the last few moments of their lives in comfort, enabling them to die with dignity. We caught up with Felicia to learn more about her work and its rewards and challenges.

HW: What is palliative care?

FC: “Palliative care is a holistic approach to health care for patients with life-limiting illnesses such as cancer, organ failure and neurodegenerative diseases. It means taking care of patients by addressing physical symptoms like pain and breathlessness, in addition to providing them with emotional and spiritual care. We try to minimise suffering and enhance the quality of life of our patients and their families.”

HW: Why did you choose this line of work?

FC: “As cliché as it sounds, this career is God’s calling. I’ve loved palliative care since I was a junior medical officer. God has a purpose in calling me to this special field and it is to help alleviate the suffering of my patients.”

HW: What is the most common misconception people have of palliative care?

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