This morning I’m going to a memorial service for a close family friend. His name was Ed Hung. You may have read about him in the Toronto Star, because on March 16th, 2014 at 11:00AM Central European Time he died by way of an assisted suicide. He was in Switzerland.
And the reason he was in Switzerland was because, in Canada, you’re not allowed to do what he did. You’re not allowed to seek help and decide when it’s your time to go. That’s supposed to be left up to some greater being.
But what if you’re like Ed? What if you have Lou Gehrig’s Disease and your body noticeably deteriorates within the span of a few months? What if you’ve just lost the ability to do what you love most: play the guitar?
Ed was a lawyer. And a successful one at that. But he loved music. The first time I met him was at my mother’s house one Christmas where he was playing the guitar and singing songs all night. He had a band and that’s what he loved to do.
Sometimes I think it’s a shame that people often don’t get the chance to just do what they love; they have to do other things in order to make enough money. But I suppose that’s life.
Nonetheless, it is somebody’s life. And I agree with Ed in that quality of life is a subjective concept. If you’ve just lost all ability to move your left hand, then it’s you who are going to have to deal with that new reality—not anybody else.
Which is why I fully support Ed’s decision. I didn’t know him as well as I would have liked, but I have a lot of respect for what he did. He took matters into his own hands and did it his way—as he beautifully expressed in his farewell YouTube video.
I know that my family will miss Ed dearly, but he’s left us with something important to think about. Before he passed he wrote a letter called Approaching Death. You can read it here. And in that letter, he delivers a powerful set of lines about the laws in our country:
“…my pride as a Canadian has somewhat diminished after having been on my knees begging to die in another country. This is not fair and I certainly do not wish it upon any of my fellow Canadians.”
I know that this may not sit well with some of you, but I believe in a country built on personal freedoms. And this, to me, is a case of personal freedom. I’m not sure what I would do if I were in Ed’s position, but I know with certainty that I would want the ability to do whatever I decide.