Cancer-free former Marine continues to fight assisted suicide

J.J. Hanson battles new bill in DC

J.J. Hanson is no stranger to battle, and some significant battles he has won.

The Marine veteran beat cancer, perhaps his biggest victory. He recently saw legislation that would have legalized physician-assisted suicide in New York State die in committee. Now he is joining a battle in the nation’s capital.

Next week, members of the Council of the District of Columbia will debate a bill allowing physician-assisted suicide for residents of the District who have fewer than six months to live. Hanson will be there.

His experience overcoming a terminal brain cancer diagnosis led him to found the Patient Rights Action Fund, an organization dedicated to ending physician-assisted suicide in the United States, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

Hanson has a personal reason to fight bills such as DC’s “Death with Dignity Act.” Sponsored by Democratic Councilwoman Mary Cheh, the bill would require at least two doctors to sign off on a terminal diagnosis, and mandates a psychiatric evaluation. The patient must consume the lethal pills personally with no assistance from a doctor or family member.

Advocates often say they would simply like the option to exist, in case they encounter unbearable pain and suffering. But Hanson says that he’s alive today because there was no such option in the state where he resided when he was given four months to live.

In 2014, Hanson was diagnosed with glioblastoma and told that he’d have four months to live. It was the same condition Brittany Maynard had. She was the 29-year-old Californian who very publicly decided to end her life that same year, rather than suffer through was was thought to be an incurable brain cancer.

But while Maynard opted for a “final exit,” creating controversy and buzz and, some believe, momentum for the assisted suicide movement, Hanson fought. He had surgery, chemo and radiation, but he was also accepted into a clinical trial for an experimental drug. The medication made him sicker than he had been from the chemo.

“This was a very vulnerable situation for me,” Hanson told the Free Beacon. “I did question whether I should continue to battle. I wasn’t in the right state of mind.”

Had he lived in Oregon, the four-month diagnosis would have been enough to receive a prescription from a physician to end his life. He is grateful that the option was not available to him.

“I would have had the pills right next to me on my nightstand. I would have had the easiest ability to commit suicide at that point in time,” said Hanson, who served in Ramadi, Iraq, and later worked for two governors of New York State.

Hanson has been cancer free for more than two years.


More to read: J.J. Hanson’s fight for life.


Shawn Neal

John Burger

John Burger is a news editor at Aleteia. He formerly worked at the National Catholic Register and Catholic New York in the Archdiocese of New York. He has also written for a wide variety of Catholic publications.