The title of this post comes from an email I received from my friend and colleague Richard Thain. The information in the email is summarized by Krista at Longreads, “On the Right to Die: John Hofsess’ Secret Assisted Suicide Service“:
At Toronto Life, John Hofsess posthumously reveals the secret assisted suicide service he offered to eight Canadians — among them the poet Al Purdy — on the day of his own assisted death.
Krista links to John Hofsess’ article, “By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead,” which was released online by Toronto Life a few minutes after Hofsess died.
Between 1999 and 2001, I helped eight people die, including the poet Al Purdy. Now, as I prepare to take my own life, I’m ready to tell my story.
Madeline Weld accompanied Hofsess to Basel, Switzerland; Weld’s article “I Watched Right-To-Die Activist John Hofsess End His Life” was, like Hofsess’ article, published few minutes after Hofsess died:
On February 25, I left Ottawa for Basel, Switzerland, where I would witness the assisted death of the right-to-die activist John Hofsess. I’m an editor at the journal Humanist Perspectives and had been working with John on a book, which I plan to release in April. John asked me to join him, along with our friend Richard Thain, the British right-to-die activist Michael Irwin, and two filmmakers named Troy Moth and Josh Lambert, who were working on a documentary about John’s death.
In a Globe and Mail article, “The Right-To-Die Trailblazers: Public Service Pioneers,” Gary Mason describes John Hofsess as “a man of immense compassion who had a deep understanding of the human condition.”
John Hofsess was fortunate to be able to chose the time and manner of his own death and to die surrounded by his friends. “By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead” and “I Watched Right-To-Die Activist John Hofsess End His Life” should be required reading for both opponents and supporters of physician-assisted death in Canada.
I don’t think anyone should be telling another that they must stay alive & suffer as long as possible until the inevitable.
A person’s life, & death, should between the person & the medical profession. The religious, the government, & even family members, should back off.
There are a lot of Christian enthusiasts who have a lot to say in support of suffering. Emphasizing the stupidity of Christianity is an important harm reduction commitment.
I had know John Hofsess in the early 1980’s in Victoria followed by our years spent together in New York City and later Toronto. John was extremely kind and a brilliant thinker. He had encouraged me to become a clinical social worker during the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Canada has lost a profound thinker and humanist. He and the writer Quentin Crisp had dedicated a book they had co-authored to me to brighten up my mood during a very difficult period in my life. He will be missed.
Wayne Brown, LCSW, Fort Lauderdale