Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Marine Who Fought for Our Freedom Fights to Diminish it at Home

The New Jersey Death with Dignity Act, a law that would legalize assisted suicide in some circumstances, is currently working its way through the state legislature. In a New Jersey Star-Ledger guest column, former marine J.J. Hanson argued against the bill, claiming that his own near-death experience qualifies him to speak for everyone else. Hanson wrote, in part:

I am a 30-something Marine Corps veteran who was given four months to live 20 months ago — diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer. I fought for treatment that was so difficult there were times when I questioned if the struggle was worth the pain.

. . . When I was at my physical and emotional worst, I became aware of a young California woman named Brittany Maynard who faced the same horrible diagnosis as mine. She took her cancer story public, and it was used to headline a national effort to "normalize" assisted suicide; a notion that had previously been rejected by dozens of states. The message sent to patients across the country, who, like me, wanted to fight and live was now — "assisted suicide may be the best option for you." I recognized this as a huge danger.

My experience has provided me perspective and made me a strong opponent of S382, the legislation currently in the New Jersey Senate to legalize assisted suicide. My personal story is a clear example to why vulnerable and very sick people like me should not be offered suicide as a medical treatment.

. . . My cancer is now in remission. My experience led me to join the national organization Patients Rights Action Fund as its president to help counter assisted suicide, and so that my story can serve as an example of hope to those who may feel hopeless due to a terminal diagnosis. I urge the New Jersey Legislature with every fiber of my being to reject the idea that lethal drugs are an answer to serious illness or terminal diagnoses. 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.

I left these comments:

The issue here is: Who has the right to dictate end-of-life decisions for other people? Put another way, what right does Hanson have to force his values on everyone else at the point of a governmental gun? The answer to the first question is, nobody; to the second, none.

S382, the “New Jersey Death with Dignity Act,” is not complete. It restricts our right to seek a humane end through medically assisted suicide to terminally ill situations. But it’s a step in the right direction, from a freedom—i.e., moral—perspective. Every adult of sound mind has the moral right, and should have the legal right, to have the same choice that Brittany Maynard found in Oregon and that Christina Symanski was denied in NJ.

The New Jersey Legislature is not advancing “the idea that lethal drugs are an answer to serious illness or terminal diagnoses.” It is recognizing people facing this dire situation the right to decide for themselves the best answer. People who deny other people their freedom of choice have no business claiming “giving hope to the vulnerable and the sick” as a motive.

It’s very ironic. The purpose of the military is to protect our freedom, which means the inalienable individual right to act on our own reasoned judgement. That fundamental human right extends throughout our lives, right up to its inevitable end, whenever that may be. The irony is that someone who spent 30 years as a marine, whose purpose is defending our freedom from foreign aggressors, would fight to deny a piece of that freedom here at home.


At 67 years old, I’m heading into the back segment of my life. It is sure to end in death. I severely resent the people who presume to be justified in taking away my right to manage my own demise, should I choose exercise that option. Who has a right to force me or any other able-minded person to remain in a life that I no longer believe is worth living? Anyone who claims that “right” cannot claim the banner of compassion, hope, or concern for the suffering of others.

Related Reading:

“Who are we to judge that one person’s fight and choice to die by assisted suicide is the hopeless one and that another person’s fight to stay alive, if lucky enough, is the more courageous one?”—Doug Brandt, Verona

Conservatives’ Collectivist Case Against Assisted Suicide—Ari Armstrong for The Objective Standard

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