On Wednesday, the Maine Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee will hold a public hearing on L.D. 1313, legislation to legalize assisted suicide, although it is inherently discriminatory and puts a great number of vulnerable people at risk of deadly harm through mistakes, abuse and coercion.

Despite the use of deceptive, carefully crafted euphemisms, assisted suicide is, by definition, suicide – and it is dangerous public policy that sends the message to patients that they are better off dead.

I know this because on Dec. 30, 2017, my husband and the love of my life, JJ Hanson, passed away from terminal brain cancer. He was only 36 years old.

JJ was a Marine Corps war veteran and volunteer firefighter who served New York state under two Democratic governors. JJ believed in personal autonomy and freedom. He was willing to risk his life by going to war to defend these inalienable rights.

Yet JJ also understood that it is the duty of a fair and just society to protect its most vulnerable members. That’s why after JJ was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, he joined the Patients Rights Action Fund, devoting his final days to protecting vulnerable patients from the legalization of assisted suicide.

After a seizure unexpectedly sent JJ to the hospital in May 2014, we were told that he had glioblastoma multiforme – the deadliest form of brain cancer. The neurosurgeon said it was inoperable, and gave JJ four months to live. Three different doctors told us there was nothing we could do.


Thankfully, we didn’t listen to those doctors or that grim prognosis, and JJ had great success with treatment. JJ lived 3½ good years following his diagnosis. During that time, our son created priceless memories with JJ, and we welcomed a second son into the world.

But if assisted suicide had been legal when JJ was diagnosed, he could have requested and had the lethal medication on his nightstand during his fifth month of treatment, when he was struggling physically and emotionally and he questioned if life was worth living because he feared he was too much of a burden on us all.

Faced with fear and depression, JJ thought about taking his own life. Thankfully, he didn’t, but if he’d had assisted suicide pills with him during those darkest days, he might have taken them. And you can’t unmake that decision.

Many terminal patients struggle with fears similar to JJ’s. Data from Oregon – where assisted suicide first became legal in the U.S. – show that the main end-of-life concerns reported by people requesting assisted suicide relate to existential suffering, such as becoming burdensome to caretakers and facing disability. In fact, “inadequate pain control” or even just concern about physical pain never makes it into the top five reported reasons.

Assisted suicide abandons vulnerable patients like JJ who can experience depression at any time following their diagnosis. Despite the supposed safeguards in L.D. 1313, there is no requirement for a doctor to follow up with patients once they receive the prescription. Once patients have the lethal pills, they’re on their own.

How many people prematurely end their lives through assisted suicide who could have gone on to live months, years and decades longer? The truth is that we’ll never know.


Worse still, assisted suicide laws create perverse incentives for health insurance companies to deny patients coverage for the care they want and deserve. It has happened in Oregon, where Barbara Wagner was told that Medicaid would not cover a prescribed drug for her lung cancer but that it would cover physician-assisted suicide. And it has started happening in states that recently passed assisted suicide legislation, like California: When Nevada physician Brian Callister was transferring patients to practices in California and Oregon, he says, each patient’s insurer asked if he’d suggested assisted suicide – although neither, Callister says, had a terminal illness.

Assisted suicide is not about one individual’s choice. These laws inject governmental pressure and profit-driven health insurance decisions into everyone’s end-of-life choices. I encourage the Health and Human Services Committee to see assisted suicide for the dangerous policy that it is and to reject it.

Maine should be focused on improving multidisciplinary end-of-life care, rather than advancing a policy that leaves a great many with suicide as the only “treatment” to which they have equal access.


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