J.J. Hanson, Voice Against Physician-Assisted Suicide in the Midst of Own Battle With Cancer, Dies at 36

ALBANY, N.Y. — J.J. Hanson, who staunchly fought against physician-assisted suicide in the midst of his own battle with terminal brain cancer, has died at age 36.

In May 2014, Hanson was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer, and was told that he had four months left to live. He was advised that his tumors were inoperable and that he should go home and enjoy the few weeks he had left with his family.

However, Hanson and his wife, Kris, decided to obtain opinions from several other physicians and were able to find a doctor who was willing to perform surgery. He was also placed on chemotherapy and radiation, and underwent a clinical trial with an experimental drug.

The road ahead was difficult and Hanson struggled with depression after several months into the fight.

“I endured a lot of physical and emotional pain and had 11 seizures. There were days when I completely lost all of my most basic physical abilities. I couldn’t talk, walk, read or write. During those times, I questioned whether it was worth it. Would it be easier if I just gave up?” he recalled in an article he wrote last year entitled “I Was Given 4 Months to Live; Assisted Suicide Isn’t the Answer.”

Looking back, Hanson has told others along the journey that in those dark moments—if he lived in a state that legalized assisted suicide—he might have chosen to take the pill and end it all. But he realized that wasn’t the answer.

“I can’t help but think about if I had the choice to request assisted suicide drugs, and if I had used those drugs during those difficult moments, I would have lost the opportunity to make memories with my wife and son,” he wrote. “Assisted suicide is a decision that you can’t unmake. My wife would be without a husband and my son without a father.”

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Hanson outlived his prognosis by three years, with his cancer going into remission last year before returning. He joined the Patients’ Rights Action Fund as president in the midst of his battle and began speaking out against physician-assisted suicide, working to fight against proposed bills that would result in the premature deaths of untold lives.

“Without a doubt, people similar to me facing desperate situations will feel like assisted suicide is their only option. In our society, we should be focused on giving hope to the vulnerable and the sick at their greatest time of need, not taking hope away,” he said.

Hanson and his wife had their second child this past July.

Earlier this month, the Patients’ Rights Action Fund announced that Hanson likely did not have long to live, as his cancer had grown considerably since his last scan on Nov. 1. He availed himself of hospice and palliative care at home in his remaining weeks of life, and expressed a hope that his story would be shared so that it could help others.

Hanson died on Saturday. He was a father of two, a Marine, and formerly served as an aide to New York governors Eliot Spitzer and David Patterson.

“Every single day is a gift, and you can’t let that go,” Hanson was known for saying.

“J.J., thank you for your courage in the face of mortality, for fighting for the vulnerable, though weak physically and emotionally at times yourself, and giving us all an example of living life to its fullest,” said Executive Director Matt Valliere. “Thank you for sharing your story with the world to give others hope and encouragement.”

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  • Weary Warrior

    Profound condolences to his widow, children, extended family and friends. He was a courageous man o served others, in and out of uniform.

  • Amos Moses – He>i

    14:5 Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;
    14:6 Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day.
    14:7 For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.

  • Robin Egg

    Deeply tragic and yet inspiring. I am sure Kristen is happy to have her two children for her husband to live on. God’s blessings.

  • DrIndica

    Obviously, it should be his choice if he wishes to live out the time to his natural death. But, in the end, everyone becomes food for the worms.

    • ppp777

      Lovely fellow .

      • DrIndica

        We live on as our decomposed atoms serve to create and nourish new life.

        • ppp777

          We turn to dust , our souls go back to God who gave it , yours will end up in hell of course , unless you repent and put your trust in Christ .

          • DrIndica

            And you have objective proof, of the consciousness experienced in “hell”?

          • ppp777

            You could of course put a bullet into your brain , but as you could never get out of hell that would be silly , that said atheists have always had the highest rate of suicide , anyway God exists and God cannot lie , and he said people like you will end up in hell , you want to take that mindless gamble go ahead , but wisdom says otherwise .

          • Tim Matter

            ppp777- Solomon agrees with Drindica.
            Ecclesiastes 9:4-10
            “For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.

            For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

            Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.

            Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.

            Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.

            Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.

            Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”

          • ppp777

            Satan uses the same method as you .

          • DrIndica

            Encouraging suicide, that is very telling. The majority of suicides are caused by untreated mental illness. But, I suppose you attribute illness to you “satan” .

          • ppp777

            Going by some of the previous posts snowflake , I will treat your comment with the contempt it deservers .

          • DrIndica

            Encouraging suicide and name calling…what a class act you are.

          • ppp777

            Going by your quotes on scripture , I think your best ignored .

          • DrIndica


  • james blue

    Our thoughts and prayers go to his loved ones. I truly admire the choice he made, but it should be HIS OWN choice. He was courageous in his suffering, but he shouldn’t be forcing others.

    I pray nobody who reads this (or even doesn’t) has to face a painful terminal illness, but if you do I want the choice as to how you proceed to be YOURS, whatever that choice may be.
    We are the masters of our own destinies. I do not control yours and you do not control mine.

  • Lark.62

    JJ made the choice that was right for him, his family and his circumstances.

    Because this choice was the right one for him, he worked to deny choice to others.

    That is unspeakably selfish.

    Medical Assistance in Dying is only available when death is imminent. JJ may well have not even been eligible 3 years ago. It takes more than a doctor saying “Yep. You’ve got cancer.” And it is a reasonable choice when pain becomes severe and unremitting. Every person facing imminent death should be able to control the manner of death to minimize pain.

  • NCOriolesFan

    I just plain HATE cancer. Took the life of my younger brother in October 2015 by surprise. No on in my family ever had even a hint of it.

  • BeBeX

    IF we can’t trust GOD with our life here on earth, then how can we trust HIM with our soul in Heaven? JESUS died/paid the sins for us all. But we have to accept HIM as our LORD & SAVIOUR. There is Only One Door to Heaven, and that is JESUS CHRIST. Satan would have us believe otherwise. That is why he is called the Great Deceiver!

    GOD is the Giver of Life and Only HE has the right to take it. Thank GOD J.J. knew this. We may ‘think’ we are the masters of our own destiny, BUT we are not. GOD is in control. Always has been and always will be. It is up to GOD. Before we were even conceived, GOD knew the days of our life on earth, the decisions we would make and the outcome of those decisions.

    The longer I live on GOD’s Green Earth, the more and more I’m convinced this life is only a test of where we will spend eternity. The choice is ours to make. Choose wisely.