“Dear Life…”

PHA - Dear Life Exhibition

“Dear Life…”

An exhibition by a group of medical students returns to continue conversations with the public about the importance of talking about and planning for the end of life.

How do you want to spend your last days? In our Asian society where death is oftentimes taboo to mention, many of us refrain from entertaining such thoughts, let alone engaging in these uncomfortable conversations. However, as Minister of Health Mr Ong Ye Kung shared at the 7th Singapore Palliative Care Conference last year, discussing the sensitive issue of death more openly and honestly is an important aspect of Singapore healthcare that we must work on. These “die-logues” are imperative in bridging the mismatch of expectations and desires between a dying patient, their loved ones, and their healthcare team.

The mix of games and information allowed for a light touch when approaching the topic of end-of-life at the exhibition

In light of the growing importance of end-of-life conversations, together with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, Project Happy Apples (PHA) finally brought back the annual public exhibition after a two-year hiatus. Founded in 2012, Project Happy Apples is led by a group of students from National University Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine who are passionate about serving the palliative community and raising awareness about palliative care and the importance of end-of-life conversations. Our vision is to normalise discussions about death and dying, so as to empower future doctors and prepare society to cope with pertinent issues surrounding end-of-life planning.

This year, our exhibition was held from 11-17 July 2022 at JEM Basement 1 Atrium. The public exhibition, themed “Dear Life…”, aimed to educate, engage, and empower the public in starting end-of-life conversations with their loved ones. Representatives from Singapore Hospice Council, Agency for Integrated Care and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital were also there to share their expertise and resources with members on palliative care and end-of-life planning. Over this week-long event, we welcomed at least 3,000 members of the public, who immersed themselves in our interactive games and activities, including the PHA television, the “Dear Life” and “Before I Die” chalkboards, Snakes and Ladders, Press the Button, and Eulogy Writing stations. Our volunteers engaged participants in expressing gratitude for the life they have, reflecting deeply on what they value most, and making changes to better their lives while they still can. One of the volunteers reflected, “I managed to interact with the public and have meaningful conversations about end-of-life and palliative care. I also appreciated the varying perspectives from the public towards these topics and that could be credited to the different games, such as Press The Button, which provided opportunities for the public to express their views without feeling judged.”

We were also extremely heartened to see families and friends openly share about one another’s wishes and preferences through these activities! According to another volunteer, “I spoke with many people and shared with them about Advance Care Planning and Lasting Power of Attorney. They looked very surprised when they found out the importance of end-of-life care planning and started asking more and more questions. It was very fulfilling because I felt I really managed to raise awareness and possibly change the lives of some people. Some also thanked us for organising this exhibition!”

 In Minister Ong’s words, let’s aim towards “a future where we can bring dignity, solace and comfort to the great majority of the dying”.

In our rapidly ageing population, die-logues are now more important than ever. Through light-hearted yet thought-provoking activities during the exhibition, PHA wanted to facilitate a change in the discourse surrounding death and dying in Singapore. Ultimately, we strive to cultivate an environment that allows patients to die with comfort and dignity. To quote Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the first modern hospice, “you matter because you are you, you matter to the end of your life”.

Photos: Project Happy Apples

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