When it comes to physician assisted suicide, laws – and hope – can make all the difference.
Life Site News recently highlighted U.S. Marine Corp veteran J.J. Hanson, who served in Iraq only to return home and be diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme. Three different doctors told him that nothing could be done about this inoperable malignant brain tumor.
“When I was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer … I went in an instant from living the American Dream … to living a nightmare,” Hanson shared about taking in the experience.
Unfortunately, when facing such a medical diagnosis, many let a sense of hopelessness and depression take in. They give in to the idea that to be able to “die with dignity” means having control to end one’s own life with the help from doctors who should be caring for and healing rather than killing.
Hanson was diagnosed with the same disease Brittany Maynard had, a young woman who made national headlines for choosing to take her own life before her health deteriorated. Physician assisted suicide has been legally in effect in her state of Oregon since 1997.
Fortunately, as depressed as Hanson felt, where he could at least certainly empathize with those like Maynard, he wasn’t willing to fall into further despair so as to end his own life. “I could identify with what Brittany Maynard was dealing with,” Hanson said. “But I don’t agree with what she chose to do.”
It wasn’t just a sense of hope. Hanson didn’t live in Oregon, but in New York. While the state has been considering legalizing physician assisted suicide for the past few years, no attempts have yet been successful. And Hanson is “thankful” there wasn’t a law which enabled him to act in such a way, as “in that moment in depression, I might have chosen to end my life,” he shared.
He also hit back on how supporters dress up physician assisted suicide and terming the laws about having to do with “death with dignity.” As Hanson aptly put it, “I knew that you didn’t have to end your life to die with dignity.” Instead of giving in, Hanson has been living in such a way where “every single part of my day, I spend toward improving my ability to live,” as he says.
While the depression is deeply and understandably felt, it is not for forever, hence he mentions “in that moment” of his depression. He also shares that “if those pills had been available when I was going through my most difficult time, I can’t say that I wouldn’t have taken them,” while also warning that “you can’t unmake that choice” to die, since “once you do it, it’s done.”
Even if the depression does go away, the finality of death does not. As Life Site News notes:
Hanson noted that a quarter of patients requesting assisted suicide were in a major depression, according to a 2008 study in the British Medical Journal. Yet he points out that only four percent of patients considering suicide were referred for psychological evaluation.
He concluded that people are too easily prescribed death instead of the mental health help they need.
Rather than physician assisted suicide, even and especially with the label of “death with dignity” slapped on it, those who face terminal illnesses and other difficulties need support and hope. One Colombian woman even found it from Pope Francis, who urged her to live, with a compliment about her beauty. She had developed a brain tumor after already suffering and considering physician assisted suicide following an acid attack, which has been alarmingly common in the region.
As Hanson has emphasized, doctors are not always right with their diagnosis, making physician assisted suicide all the more tragic in its finality. He’s alive three years later, though he’s still putting up a fight against it returning, as detailed on his “You Can’t Hurt Steel” website.
Late last month, Hanson wrote an article published in Fox News sharing how he and his wife welcomed their second son, an opportunity he acknowledges he would have missed out on had he chosen physician assisted suicide.