A study shows there is majority support in Hong Kong for same-sex couples to have the right to inquire about a partner’s medical information, and the right to claim the ashes of a deceased partner.

The results showed that 54 percent of the public support same-sex couples in “long-term stable relationships” to have the right to ask doctors about their partners’ medical conditions, and 64 percent agree that if a person passes away the surviving partner should have the same right “as other relatives” to claim the ashes of the deceased person.

Only 18 percent disagree with people in a same-sex relationship having the right to ask doctors about their partners’ medical conditions and 10 percent oppose the right to claim ashes of a deceased same-sex partner.

The study was conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and led by Professor Suen Yiu Tung (孫耀東). It was conducted with 1,013 people from Hong Kong by telephone.

Results from those with religious beliefs and the elderly, who were perceived to be more conservative, did not differ significantly from other groups, according to the study. Suen suggests that sympathy for those experiencing the loss of loved ones may override other values they hold.

The study was inspired by recent efforts to bolster the rights of same-sex couples in Hong Kong. In 2015, the Legislative Council passed a law that ensured same-sex couples’ right to make certain medical decisions on behalf of each other. In June this year, former lawmaker Cyd Ho (何秀蘭) proposed to amend the law to ensure same-sex people have the same right as heterosexual couples to claim a deceased partner’s ashes.

Suen notes that the study focused on the rights for same-sex couples “in long-term stable relationships,” meaning it differs from Ho’s proposal, which includes same-sex couples married overseas.

A tragic story involving a well-known professor in Taiwan, who is thought to have committed suicide earlier this month, provides an example of why the rights of same-sex couples are important. According to a friend and former student, the professor had last year not been allowed to be involved in any medical decisions when his long-term partner was suffering from cancer because he has no official relationship with him.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole