Man who strangled disabled wife calls for legalization of euthanasia
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Man who strangled disabled wife calls for legalization of euthanasia

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A man who admitted to strangling his elderly, disabled wife says Hong Kong should legalize euthanasia.

81-year-old Wong Kok-man has been in jail since his wife’s death in 2017. He turned himself following her death by strangulation and pleaded guilty to manslaughter last month.

According to the South China Morning Post, Judge Judianna Barnes Wai-ling gave Wong a lenient sentence for the crime, noting the many tragic circumstances of the case. She sentenced him to two years in jail, backdating the sentence for the length of time he has already spent in jail awaiting trial. His expected release is next month.

Several news outlets have pointed to the acute need for more elder care, especially for lower income families. Wong was his wife’s sole caregiver after she suffered a stroke and other ailments, and he told the court that he could not afford to hire a caregiver. During the trial, the court also learned that Wong had intended to commit suicide after killing his wife but instead chose to turn himself in because he wanted to face the consequences.

READ: Ten years ago he tried to kill himself, now he fights euthanasia

Sadly, instead of advocating for assistance for the elderly, Wong has spoken out in favor legalizing euthanasia to “relieve the suffering” of the elderly and disabled. In a chilling statement released through lawmaker Fernando Cheung, who visited with Wong on several occasions, Wong said: “I believe Hong Kong should allow euthanasia, so that society will not waste so many resources, and poor people will not suffer so much.” He added, “Only those who have been tormented by life can understand why I would propose euthanasia.”

“I once brought my wife to an elderly home, and saw a lot of old people who were breathing but could not move or speak,” he added. “It is most difficult for a person to prefer dying over living… but when they are sick there is no choice.”

There is only no choice when people refuse to help others. Resources are not “wasted” on the dying and the disabled, because their human dignity is not diminished by their circumstances, and society owes them compassionate care instead of prematurely ending their lives. Once we begin measuring whose right to life warrants the resources expended, there is no telling whose life will be at risk.

Wong’s tragic story also demonstrates the harsh reality of euthanasia: it is not the autonomous choice that assisted suicide advocates suggest but an act of desperation in difficult circumstances. This is particularly pronounced among vulnerable populations like the poor. As one doctor noted, a “right to die” soon creates a “duty to die” for the vulnerable.

Touchingly, Wong’s 11 younger siblings appeared at his trial vowing to care for their elderly brother, visit him more, and ensure that he does not reach the desperate, suicidal frame of mind that led him to take his wife’s life.

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