John Tuckwell, who was granted the right to a physician-assisted death by an Edmonton judge in May, died from natural causes Wednesday morning.
His sister Cathy Tuckwell delivered the news of his passing on Facebook.
“This morning, John slipped away… Not as he’d hoped with a physician assisted death; his breathing became compromised and he didn’t have the strength to spit on ALS one last time. Mom and a long-time friend of John’s were both with him when he left this earth. He was comfortable, at peace, and looking forward to seeing Bruno again.
“Safe travels, John. We will all miss you.”
The 53-year-old had been living with ALS for nearly four years. The progressive neurological disease stole his voice first, and his ability to swallow. Still, in an interview with Global News in June, John said he felt lucky to have had three good years on his feet since his diagnosis.
Watch below: Last month, an Edmonton judge granted John Tuckwell the right to a physician-assisted death. The former government spokesperson – diagnosed with ALS in 2012 – explains what the right to end his life on his own terms means. Su-Ling Goh reports.
“My brother John has always lived life on the edge, travelling all over the world, meeting people that became life-long friends, celebrating Canada’s geography from the west coast through the Rockies and as far east as Loon Lake,” his sister wrote.
“When he was diagnosed with ALS in November 2012, we were all gutted, but John… continued to seek out challenges and accomplished many things in the past few years including a trip to Nepal, a drive from Katmandu to Llasa, then Thailand,” Cathy shared.
John formerly worked as a government spokesperson and his sister referenced his sharp way with words in her message Wednesday.
“His quick wit was just as likely to get him kudos as it could get him a black eye.”
She also credited Edmonton’s ALS clinics and the ALS Society of Alberta with giving him the chance to explore the world while he was able.
“Each time ALS chipped away at his abilities, the ALS Society and the team with the ALS clinic stepped up with the tools he needed to to keep enjoying life,” Cathy wrote. “Each time he beat it back, he was truly on top of the world.”
Watch below: John Tuckwell, who works for the Alberta government, didn’t shy away from getting drenched with icy water to raise awareness for the disease that has taken away his ability to speak. He also nominated several provincial cabinet ministers to take part.
In May, John became one of the first Canadians to be granted a medically assisted death.
“Relieved,” he typed when asked how he felt when the judge ruled that he qualified for the legal exemption.
In a statement for the court, John wrote: “When I was diagnosed with ALS in October 2012, I was scared, alone, depressed and incredibly angry. Every test to rule out other possible causes of my symptoms pitched me further down that dark slope. I did consider suicide.”
“But I still had to walk my dog, still met up with friends and went to work. Then it occurred to me that I was still enjoying all that. And I was still laughing, which I love to do.”
“So I decided to live well while I was still alive.”
With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News