In a rather heartbreaking story, 64-year old Mr Lim is refusing medical help to treat his suspected gangrenous left leg, leaving family and friends worried and helpless.
Mr Lim’s plight was first reported by The New Paper (TNP) on 3 January, and he is said to be “a feature in his estate in central Singapore.”
Mr Lim’s left leg had started to rot in 2012, but he has refused all help which was offered to him, including that from the social services, the National Healthcare Group (NHG), despite the pleas and advice of his sister and neighbours.
“[The] decay has reached just below his left knee and residents say they have seen him scrape maggots off his wound,” TNP says in its report.
It is believed that his leg has rotted because of his diabetes, which runs in his family.
Neighbours and people who walk pass Mr Lim, who often spends his time sitting at a public bench, would hold their noses to ward off the stench from his leg.
“When Mr Lim walks, he drags his blackened leg, one hand holding up trousers that appear baggy for his skinny frame,” TNP says. “Unemployed and single, he survives by collecting a few dollars each day for the past three years.”
His sister, Mdm Lim, has tried several times to get him to see a doctor and have his condition treated, but Mr Lim has refused.
“He has never seen a doctor before in his entire life, even when he was sick. I have asked him to get his leg treated time and time again, but he refuses,” TNP quotes Mdm Lim as having said. She holds a part-time job and doesn’t live with her brother. She does, however, visit him twice a month to help him clean up his two-room flat where he lives alone.
“My brother is simple-minded,” Mdm Lim said. “He is afraid of amputation, and he doesn’t understand the complications.”
Mr Lim’s immediate neighbours and shopkeepers in the area have also tried to persuade him to get help, and they have even called the emergency services and the authorities – but Mr Lim has stubbornly rejected their good intentions.
Now, the fear is that his medical condition may be fatal if it continues to go untreated.
“He does not want to lose his leg even though he must be suffering from much discomfort because of it,” said Ms Grace Lee, group director of seniors services at Care Corner Seniors Services (CCSS).
“Should we call for an ambulance, he can still refuse to step in,” she told TNP. “There is very little we can do to get him to seek medical treatment if he refuses to give consent.”
Ms Lee said Mr Lim may be suffering from a form of dementia and may not be fully aware of the seriousness of his situation.
But all is not lost, as Mr Lim has recently shown signs of relenting on his rejection of help, especially since social workers, who were made aware of his plight by a neighbour last year, have persisted in keeping tabs on Mr Lim.
TNP reports that when it visited Mr Lim at his home on Wednesday, there were two nurses from the Virtual Hospital at Tan Tock Seng Hospital who wanted to assess his leg.
“Mr Lim initially rejected any suggestions from the health workers but eventually relented to letting them see both his legs and to take tissue samples from them,” TNP said.
His sister had played a part in persuading him to let the health workers have a look at his diseased leg – she had threatened to take back the money she had been giving him for household expenditure.
Mr Lim has also accepted help from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), and receives $300 a month under the ministry’s assistance scheme.
Still, there is no guarantee that Mr Lim will continue to allow medical assistance for himself, especially if he feels that it will lead to amputation of his leg.
Nonetheless, Mdm Lim is glad that Mr Lim is at least now more opened to medical help.
“I am so happy,” Mdm Lim told TNP. “I have tried for years to get him to accept help. This is a start.”
As for the law on such cases where a person who is obviously suffering from a medical condition refuses the necessary medical attention, there is little that anyone else can do without consent from the person himself.
Read the full reports in The New Paper for further details of this and Mr Lim’s story:
“Man refuses treatment despite leg crawling with maggots”
“Social worker on Mr Lim: ‘Our hands are tied‘”