TORONTO – The friend of a Toronto lawyer who went to Switzerland to end his life says a group of lawyers is looking at whether his dying plea for legalized assisted suicide could be part of an upcoming Supreme Court hearing on the subject.
In an open letter and video, Edward Hung, 62, explained why he opted to die with help rather than continue living with ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — an incurable and increasingly debilitating condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
He wrote that it “is just not fair” that while he had the means to fly to Europe others wracked by debilitating diseases were unable to do so.
Jerry Leung, a close friend and lawyer who worked with Hung, says he and other lawyers are discussing if there is a way to send Hung’s final message to the top court’s spring hearing on a right-to-die case.
“He would want his message to be heard before the court. He would want his message to have a positive impact, to allow people to make this kind of decision in Canada,” Leung said Saturday after a memorial service for Hung.
“He would want the laws changed. Absolutely.”
Leung said the group is also considering sending the numerous email letters of support sent to Hung’s firm to the top court as well, adding they’re looking at applying for intervener status.
A crowd of mourners filled a downtown Toronto church on Saturday to remember Hung, who died earlier this month, as a fun-loving and passionate lawyer who loved to grab a guitar and break out into song.
Many dabbed away tears as friends and family recalled his enthusiastic love of life and music. In one of several videos played during the service, Hung — wearing a John Lennon-style wig and glasses — strums an impassioned cover of the former Beatles star’s hit “Imagine.”
Hung’s daughter Rachel recalled how her dad would always find time during his busy legal practice to drive to nearby Hamilton and give her a lift around university.
“He was an amazing man, the best person. Above all, he was the best father,” she said, fighting back tears while some in the crowd sobbed.
The mourners were told how Hung, diagnosed with ALS last year, fought to continue living his busy life to the fullest while his body increasingly faded from the disease. One of the first things he lost was the ability to play guitar.
Friend John Reeves said in an interview that Hung always sought justice, and that his final wish was for others in his situation to not be treated unjustly.
“I think he would regard it as a message that should be sent to the Supreme Court, and if it lay within the power of anybody else to help his message get across through his words and through his example he would be very pleased,” said Reeves, who met Hung decades ago shortly after the future criminal lawyer arrived in Canada from Hong Kong.
Hung’s dying message echoes the plea of a prominent microbiologist, Dr. Donald Low, who made a video advocating doctor-assisted suicide days before he died last fall.
This week, a former Conservative cabinet minister left paralyzed from the neck down by a 1996 car crash said he plans to introduce two private member’s bills that would allow assisted suicide in some circumstances. The Harper government says it has no interest in debating the issue.
In a 1993 ruling, the Supreme Court rejected a British Columbia woman’s bid for assisted suicide.
At the end of his final letter, Hung wrote that “I had the good fortune of having the support and resources to enable me to approach death in the way I wanted.”
“However, not everyone in our country is that fortunate. These less fortunate would lose their right to their last decision.”