Mr. Tung LAM, CBE, is a Medical Law Consultant (end of life issues) of the Eternity Living Life Company Limited in Hong Kong, Chief Executive-Select of HKSAR, and an Inaugural Obama Foundation Fellow. He was a Foundation Ambassador in Hong Kong at Sentebale Charity Foundation by HRH The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry of England. He earned the award of Organizing for Action Community Engagement Fellowship (September 2018). Here we talk about end of life issues.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was early life like for you, e.g. geography, culture, language, religion or lack thereof, education, and family structure and dynamics?
Tung LAM: I was born in China but my parents are actually Malaysian Born Chinese who returned to China during their early childhood. I was under strong influence of western culture since a lot of my family members are Christians and I became a Christian during early life of my study but the religious background I used to be is not going to affect my medical law practice because, as I mentioned many times in my social media, many religious groups including Lutheranism, Evangelism, and Presbyterianism endorsed end of life issue which includes euthanasia. Not to mention I emigrated from China to Hong Kong in 1987 and I am always under the strong influence of western culture in Hong Kong afterwards. I master three languages including spoken and written English, spoken and written Chinese that are Cantonese and Mandarin. I received my mainstream education in Hong Kong from primary school to medical school education and they are all instructed in English during the lessons. After my divorce, I am very close to my family members (father, mother and elder brother) because they are the only relatives I had in Hong Kong right now.
Jacobsen: What levels of formal education have been part of life for you? How have you informally self-educated?
LAM: All of my qualifications including my fellowships (Honorary Inaugural Obama Foundation Fellowship, Honorary Organizing for Action Fellowship and Organizing for Action Community Engagement Fellowship) are formal education with formal endorsement from the relevant authorities but most of these fellowships are political education instead of education of knowledge. As you know, medical law in end of life issue on Advance Directive and Voluntary Active Euthanasia involves drafting a lot legal and political policies and, from my perspective, they are the main considerations to execute the medical law practice. After obtaining my political fellowships and becoming the Medical Law Consultant in end of life issue of my company, I received continued medical education (CME) from some internationally renowned journals that are Global Bioethics and Springer Ethics. My blogs and promotional materials were quoted by a number of third party organizations due to their recognition of my position as the only Medical Law Consultant in end of life issue in Asia.
Jacobsen: For those with more in-depth information on your story, they can look into the references provided at the end of the interview. As you were a very bright student and entered into Medical Law, and as you experience several angering and difficult setbacks in professional posts, how was the focus of former American President Barack Obama on end of life issues critical to personal interest and professional involvement in Medical Law?
LAM: I do obtain an outstanding performance during my undergraduate medical school years and that includes the Scholarship for exchange to National University of Singapore and it is a very prominent university in Asia. I believe every event in your life, no matter it is good or bad, will bring positive energy into your life and those negative events are the triggering point for me to enter the field of Medical Law in end of life issue. These issues are originated from the West and they are really very fresh ideas in Asian culture and I can say, before me, no one touches on it in Greater China or probably even among many other Asian countries. This is a very important point why I get in touch with President Barack Obama who is the first African American US President. He is renowned for his acceptance to cultures from different ethnic backgrounds and he is the first American President who openly established his own Advance Directive. Everything starts with my contact with his campaign committee and everything starts with his first reply letter to me. With his continued support and endorsement of my work in Medical Law of end of life issue, I became endorsed Medical Law Consultant in end of life issue and fellows of his organizations. Together with the support of His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry of England, I received the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for my contribution in this field. President Barack Obama even made the suggestion for me to become the Chief Executive of Hong Kong and this suggestion was made to President Xi of China in 2017. Prince Harry and I had a mutual understanding to select me as the first Foundation Ambassador in Hong Kong at his Sentebale Charity Foundation. We had private communication during those days.
Jacobsen: How does Medical Law, typically, view end of life issues?
LAM: End of life issue is an inseparable part of Medical Law. Advance Directive and Voluntary Active Euthanasia are integral to the development of end of life issue.
Jacobsen: What are the options available for those with little in the way of personal savings in terms of choices at the end of life?
LAM: This is a tricky question. Since I am practicing Medical Law in the jurisdiction of Hong Kong, I can only answer you based on the current legal framework of Hong Kong’s legal system. Voluntary Active Euthanasia is currently illegal in Hong Kong by the virtue of the provisions in the Offences Against the Person Ordinance (Cap 212) but its public education is protected by the freedom of speech under Article 27 of Basic Law. We do not provide person-to-person consultation on this issue.
Jacobsen: What is Advance Directive?
LAM: The Advance Directive is classified into instructional directive (a living will) which usually comprises of instructions about what kind of life-sustaining treatments that a patient wishes to endorse when he/she becomes mentally incapacitated under specified circumstances. It is legally bound in Hong Kong. A proxy directive expresses the patient’s wish to appoint another person (proxy, surrogate, or representative), usually a family member, to make health care decisions on his/her behalf when he/she becomes mentally incapacitated under specified circumstances.
Jacobsen: What is Voluntary Active Euthanasia?
LAM: It is defined as the direct act (such as feeding of lethal medication through gastrostomy tube) and intentional killing of a person as part of the medical care being offered at the voluntary request of the patient.
Jacobsen: As the Honorary Inaugural Obama Foundation Fellow, Honorary Organizing for Action Fellow, and a Medical Law Consultant, what do you see as the important ethical and political questions to take into consideration for the right to die, euthanasia, dying with dignity, or medical assistance in dying?
LAM: The only question is we need to implement them in real but I had tried to influence the Hong Kong government to get involved in the legislation of relevant policies and I had made personal contact with several previous Chief Executives of Hong Kong that are TUNG Chee Hwa, Donald Tsang, CY Leung, and Carrie Lam. They all dare not to step into the relevant formal legislation. First Former Chief Executive TUNG Chee Hwa is the only one agreed to support me in person. With the suggestion and endorsement from President Barack Obama and with the support from President Donald Trump, I shall take part in the Chief Executive election and I am fully eligible. This is currently the only way to initiate everything in the formal endorsement of Medical Law practice in end of life issue in Hong Kong. As I announced on the Chief Executive election statement, I will incorporate the new medical law system into the current legal framework after successfully assuming my position and it was already drafted by me.
Jacobsen: What are Awakening Research Foundation Hong Kong Limited in 2012 and Eternity Living Life Company Limited, and World Federations of Right to Die Societies? How are these important for the activism in the right to die, especially in terms of the legal changes and sociopolitical acknowledgment, even acceptance, of it?
LAM: Awakening Research Foundation Hong Kong Limited was established by me in 2012 and it was renamed Eternity Living Life Company Limited in 2017 and they are all member societies of the World Federation. All of these are with a common goal that is to promote the legislation of relevant law locally and globally. The only difference is that we adopt a different approach in pursuing our dreams. Most of them around the world choose to fight for legislation through winning the court cases. But it is different in Asia, we are culturally more withdrawn and conservative, the only way to create the impact is through a more authoritative way that is exactly what I am trying to do here in Hong Kong – to join the Chief Executive election.
Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts based on the conversation today?
LAM: I hope you don’t think that I am too confident in myself but all these come from the support and endorsement from the politicians around the world. I believe their support is due to the rarity for someone who is willing to step out and get involved in the Medical Law practice of end of life issue in Asia and they obviously appreciate it a lot.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Tung.
LAM: The honor is mine. I really hope that more people in Hong Kong and Asia are willing to understand more about the Medical Law practice in end of life issue. Thank you very much.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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