by Santhi Krishnasamy
Dear Defence Minister, Dr Ng Eng Hen
My son has a heart scan on 5 April 2021. It is likely that he would be diagnosed with a genetic medical condition which can result in sudden death.
The Ministry of Defence’s (MINDEF) policy is to declare such men fit for enlistment under the lowest PES status of E9, which is a desk bound vocation. Should these men die during enlistment, their deaths would be classified as a “non-training death”.
The danger of such classification is that the focus is on maintaining a good record of low or zero training deaths, as such, these men’s deaths, if they should happen, are normalised as an inevitable outcome of the medical condition.
All lives matter. These deaths can be prevented.
My son’s father was exempted from his own national service. This was 30 years ago. He is alive today, and one contributing factor could be that he was exempted from his national service. He has had the freedom to seek his own medical attention, with doctors who listened and understood him.
The assumption that a desk-bound vocation, with no physical activity, keeps SDS (Sudden Death Syndrome) men safe is a false assumption. If anything, it only serves to keep MINDEF’s records looking pretty as these men’s deaths are classified as “non-training” deaths.
My son is an active young man. As a parent, I have kept him safe all these years by introducing new experiences, some of which are highly physical. I am proud to say that he is a martial arts instructor. I am afraid that during enlistment, my son may suddenly die.
Not because he is exposed to an extreme physical event, but because he is exposed to a novel event that creates a trigger for him. A fine example might be what happened at the Central Manpower Base (CMPB) in 2018 during a routine medical examination which practically all pre-enlistees go through.
On that day, my son experienced a cardiac event. I still don’t fully know what happened, and I have lodged a formal complaint, for which I expect a formal investigation and response.
In the meantime, I urge the respective responsible parties to bring change in MINDEF’s policy of classifying national service deaths as “training” and “non-training”. This will force MINDEF to change its view, and value every life.
Every NS man’s life matters. Young men with SDS should not be subject to resignation or complacency.
I would like to take this opportunity to highlight a case of a young man, who suddenly died on the fifth day of his National Service. Although I was not in Singapore, my recent research showed that Singapore was in shock. This was in 2008.
In parliament, a non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) raised a question to the then Defence Minister, and his question was whether parents would be allowed to carry out their own independent medical review. The then Defence Minister firmly said that it was every parent’s right to do so.
Accordingly, I seek Minister of Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen’s permission, to bring my son to my doctors for an independent medical review. My son was born in Australia, and his doctors are in Australia.
I seek the Defence Minister’s permission in the form of an Exit Permit, so that my son can lawfully leave Singapore. I intend to find out about my son’s medical condition, and seek my doctors’ advice on how to best manage the condition.
As a parent, this is my right. Please don’t deny my right on account of my son being born in Australia and having his doctors in Australia. I don’t want him to die during his enlistment.