Right-to-die activist gets euthanized, then posthumously confesses to 8 euthanasia killings
TORONTO, March 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Canadian right-to-die activist John Hofsess, who was euthanized in a Swiss clinic on February 29 at age 78, confessed posthumously in an article published by Toronto Life that he killed eight people, including poet Al Purdy.
"I went from advocating for assisted suicides to facilitating them," wrote Hofsess, a onetime Victoria-based writer. "Let's not mince words: I killed people who wanted to die."
"He's really a mass killer," said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition. "This is a man who should have been charged and obviously wasn't charged because no one knew about it."
Hofsess himself admitted that "under current Canadian law, there's no apparent difference between me and killers such as Robert Pickton, Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olson."
Hofsess told Purdy, whom he killed on April 21, 2000, that he was thinking of turning himself in after the poet was dead and thereby launching a trial that could lead to law reform.
But Purdy's wife didn't want the controversy of a police investigation and attendant "media frenzy," Hofsess wrote, and he knew he could be convicted of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence, or of assisted suicide, which carries a maximum 14-year sentence.
Ultimately, Purdy advised Hofsess to keep mum, and Hofsess himself agreed it would be better if he were at large and thus free to kill more people, something he regarded as an "essential service."
But the founder of the Right to Die Society of Canada stopped after killing eight people, when his claimed accomplice Evelyn Martens was arrested in 2002 and charged with two counts of assisted suicide in relation to the deaths of two women, which Hofsess stated he didn't know anything about.
Martens was acquitted in 2004, but "the authorities' awareness made it impossible to revive our assisted death service," wrote Hofsess. "Since then, many Canadians have suffered greatly, trying to have a meaningful choice in dying."
In June 2016, the Supreme Court's February 2015 Carter decision, which struck down the Criminal Code prohibition against assisted suicide and euthanasia, will come into effect.
Perhaps that is why Toronto Life decided to publish Hofsess's posthumous apologia for killing eight people, along with details on how he did it.
Had Hofsess published his confession while alive, he wrote, he "could be arrested and charged with crimes ranging from assisted suicide to first-degree murder."
Not only did Toronto Life publish Hofsess's article after he was euthanized, but it also published a similar piece describing the septuagenarian's death in Switzerland, written by the president of the Population Institute of Canada, Madeline Weld.
Weld's article includes the detail that Hofsess, who had an "unstable heart" and had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and pulmonary fibrosis, "insisted that cost was one of the reasons he wanted to die. He did not have the means to support himself and did not want to be a burden on taxpayers."
Another detail was that Hofsess "startled" Weld by "emitting a few loud, dry sobs" after the IV to release lethal drugs into his bloodstream, and which he controlled with a valve, had been inserted into his arm, and the Swiss doctor asked him if he wanted to die.
Toronto Life editor Sarah Fulford and publisher Ken Hunt did not return calls from LifeSiteNews, so their reasons for publishing Hofsess's posthumous confession, and the exceedingly troubling account of his last hours, remain open to speculation.
Toronto Life is published by St. Joseph's Media, a division of St. Joseph's Communication, whose CEO, Tony Gagliano (who is also chair of the board of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation), told LifeSiteNews that "the media company is run on a basis of editorial independence and is run by Doug Knight."
"We have complete editorial independence, as all first-rate journalistic organizations do, always have had. All publications within this company, St. Joseph's Media, have editorial independence, period, over," said Knight in a telephone call.
"We are a first-rate organization. Toronto Life has won more editorial awards than any magazine in the history of Canada."
"It's not journalistic excellence," countered Schadenberg, "because they didn't even recognize in their article that there are people who are suicidal."
Schadenberg pointed to Australia, which follows the United Nations recommendations on publishing articles on euthanasia and assisted suicide: "if someone is suicidal, you always publish information for suicide prevention along with the article."
This is what the U.K.'s Daily Mail did, concluding its account of Hofsess's confession with the numbers of suicide help lines.
That U.N. protocol was issued "to protect people who are going through a terribly difficult time in order to ensure that there is no abuse going on in that sense," Schadenberg told LifeSiteNews.
"I think it's very inappropriate how they are actually publishing these things," he said. "You have people at a very vulnerable time in their life reading about how Hofsess killed people."
"To me, it's a very dangerous direction to be going in, and you have to be very careful when you are doing this," he cautioned, "because there are people who are going to be reading it who are naturally going through a difficult time. That's just a reality."
Toronto Life's decision to publish Hofsess's apologia indeed raises ethical questions, provoked by acute suspicions about the wisdom of the assisted suicide movement itself, says veteran journalist Ted Byfield.
Founder in the 1980s of the now defunct Alberta, BC, and Western Report magazines, the 86-year-old Byfield was instrumental in the formation of the Reform Party of Canada and more recently was general editor and publisher of the 12-volume history series The Christians: Their First 2000 Years.
"The old Christian idea was that suicide is a terminal sin. We didn't give ourselves this life, so we have no right to remove it. Such was the thinking," Byfield told LifeSiteNews in an email.
"There does not appear to be any recognition of this view in the Toronto Life article," he added. "How surprising!"
The evidence mounts in the Netherlands that the "whole practice is going wildly out of control" and that what is termed "assisted suicide" is often in fact, "assisted murder," noted Byfield.
With its "fertility rate nosediving," he added, Canada is "heading into a period in which fewer and fewer working people will be required to support more and more retired people, many of the former derived from cultures that a have very little use for the values or value of the latter."
"Now you'd think surely that the 'boomers' would be the last people to recommend an assisted suicide law, since their demise will become increasingly welcomed by those who have to support them," Byfield observed.
"But no, they're the very people who are recommending it. In other words their ignorance and astounding blindness is, as usual, monumental."