Last week, Life Legal had the opportunity to meet three heroes in the fight against the legalization of assisted suicide: 30-year-old former U.S. Marine JJ Hanson, his wife Kristen Hanson, and Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, a psychiatrist with the University of California at Irvine’s Neuropsychiatric Center.
In 2014, both Brittany Maynard and JJ Hanson were diagnosed with the same form of aggressive brain cancer. Like Maynard, Hanson was told he only had a few months to live.
While Brittany chose to spend her remaining days looking for a doctor who could end her life, JJ sought a doctor willing to provide treatment—and found one. He underwent an extremely risky surgery to remove the tumors. While the procedure itself went well, JJ suffered complication that nearly ended his life. He endured chemotherapy, radiation, and a new experimental therapy.
During those dark days, JJ became clinically depressed and questioned whether he wanted to go on living. He now realizes how vulnerable patients are as they are wrestling with a devastating diagnosis—and how easy it would have been to give up, had “aid-in-dying” drugs been available to him.
Two years later, JJ’s cancer is in remission. JJ and Kristen are now working to oppose assisted suicide laws in New York.
Dr. Aaron Kheriaty is a declarant in Life Legal’s lawsuit against California’s “End of Life Option Act.” He has been an active opponent of assisted suicide laws across the nation. As a psychiatrist, Dr. Kheriaty has researched the links between serious illness, depression, and suicide and found that 80-90% of all suicides are associated with depression or other treatable mental disorders. California’s End of Life Option Act does not require patients to undergo a psychiatric evaluation prior to obtaining a lethal prescription. Dr. Kheriaty believes this lack of evaluation constitutes medical negligence.
“The law is a teacher: Laws shape the ethos of a culture by affecting cultural attitudes toward certain behaviors and influencing moral norms. Laws permitting physician-assisted suicide send a message that, under especially difficult circumstances, some lives are not worth living.” —Dr. Aaron Kheriaty
LAWSUIT UPDATE: State Attorney General Kamala Harris has now intervened and will submit her reply to the lawsuit this week.
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