Bioethics News

Euthanasia activist posthumously confesses to killing eight people

A now-deceased Canadian assisted dying activist has admitted to breaking Canadian law and killing eight people seeking euthanasia.

John Hofsess, 78, died in an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland last month. The day after his death the Canadian magazine Toronto Life published a memoir he had written.  

In the article, Hofsess describes his subversive activity in Canada before euthanasia was legalised.

Hofsess set up an underground assisted suicide service that helped eight people to die – including renowned Canadian poet Al Purdy.

“I created an underground assisted death service that offered innovative non-medical ­methods of dying to [Right to Die Society of Canada] members …Following Jack Kevorkian’s example, we didn’t require clients to pay for our services…Between 1999 and 2001, we provided eight members of the Society with assisted deaths.”

Hofsess offers an extended account of the last days of Purdy, and discusses the different means by which he euthanized members of the Society.

Hofsess admitted that what he did was first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence, or assisted suicide, which carries a maximum 14-year sentence.

“Under current Canadian law, there’s no apparent difference between me and killers such as Robert Pickton, Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olson”.

Jan Goddard, a well-known Canadian attorney specializing in elder law, described Hofsess’s story as an example of why euthanasia should be legal.

“It felt to me like it would have been so much better if he and his patients didn’t have to take on all that risk and fear.”

James Downar, a critical care and palliative care physician, was more circumspect:

“I think it’s always hard to condone somebody taking the lives of others, whatever the motivation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.