By Kenneth Lovett
ALBANY – A former Marine who suffered from brain cancer and became a vocal opponent of physician-assisted suicide died Saturday.
J.J. Hanson, who also once a former aide to Govs. Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, was 36.
His death was announced Saturday evening by the state Catholic Conference, which worked closely with him to fight passage of a so-called Death with Dignity bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in New York.
“JJ lived his motto: ‘Every day is a gift, and you can’t ever let that go,’” said Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference. “He and (his wife) Kristen are a true testament to living their faith through adversity, and JJ’s death is a loving example of an authentic ‘death with dignity.’”
In 2015, Hanson became the president of the Patients Rights Action Fund, a group opposing assisted suicide efforts nationally.
The Hudson Valley resident told the Daily News in 2015 that he once supported the Death with Dignity movement. But he spent his final years fighting against physician-assisted suicide, including in New York where a bill to legalize the practice has died in the Legislature.
“New York is a key area where we’re going to fight and try to defend and not allow this to become the social norm,” Hanson told The News.
“And he did that while facing tremendous health hurdles, undergoing surgeries and treatments, and caring for his family.”
After being diagnosed with brain cancer, Hanson was given four months to live, but outlived that initial prognosis by more than three years.
“Like few do, he understood that time is a precious and measured commodity,” said the Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, an evangelical Christian group that opposes physician-assisted suicide. “He didn’t want to waste one bit of it. J.J. loved people in the moment, and through his example, he challenged us to do the same.”
Hanson leaves behind his wife and two young sons.