A video of Taiwanese TV host Fu Da-ren’s death by assisted suicide at a clinic in Switzerland has gone viral, raising the profile of the debate on euthanasia in China and questions about dignity at life’s end.
Broadcaster and sports journalist Fu had pancreatic cancer and he became a vocal supporter of euthanasia. He and his family flew to Zurich in May 2018 and he died there on June 7 at the age of 86.
In the video, which became public on Taiwanese media this week, Fu, surrounded by his family, is seen holding a cup of medicine. A volunteer with Dignitas, an organisation that enables assisted suicides, told him to take the drug as quickly as he could because it had a bitter taste.
Fu asked: “Can I do it in one take?” The volunteer said he could take it in two or three sips and that, afterwards, he should exhale.
He then raised the cup, and said to the camera: “Farewell, so long” in Chinese and English. His family softly sang a hymn as he took four sips, and his son said: “Dad, I love you,” and “Relax, there’s no more pain”. Fu collapsed in his son’s arms as his family clapped and sobbed.
Fu Chun-hao, the journalist’s son, has carried on his father’s campaign for legalisation of euthanasia on social media.
“He suffered from pancreatic cancer and was so thin he was only 49 kilos,” Fu Chun-hao wrote in November on a Facebook page dedicated to Fu Da-ren’s memory. “He had children at the age of 60 and told his son almost every day that he was going to die. In the last two years of his life, he fought for the legalisation of euthanasia, but without success.”
Fu won a Golden Bell Award for Taiwanese television in 1980. During his broadcasting career, he coined several popular sports catchphrases that are still in use by commentators and fans today, such as “gai huoguo”, meaning a block shot in basketball.
The news of his decision to end his life triggered great discussion on the mainland. A topic about Fu’s assisted suicide on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, has been read 260 million times with 84,000 responses so far.
Some people said they were touched by the video and supported Fu’s decision. Others said they would prefer to have control over their last days rather than long hospital treatment, confined to bed and punctured by needles.
“I support not being tortured by diseases and pain, and leaving this world in dignity,” one Weibo user said.
“His children must have mixed feelings, they are happy that their father is finally far away from pain, at the same time they are mourning the loss of their father,” another wrote. “Such separation is inevitable, but at the same time this triggers soul-searching on how to treat such separation.”
Some were worried that if it were possible to legalise euthanasia in China, would it be used to coerce the terminally ill.
Traditionally, the topic of death is a taboo in Chinese culture. However, in recent years, some began pushing for more discussion on death with dignity, as well as issues such as living wills.
In 2006, Luo Diandian, daughter of Chinese general Luo Ruiqing, created a website called Choice and Dignity to promote her views. In 2013, she co-founded the Association Promoting Living Wills. She has met fierce resistance to her views.