Before being diagnosed with ALS, Tony Barrett was a veterinary technician in Southern California who loved making people smile. His last act is no different.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease for which there is currently no cure. Death is usually by suffocation, after the muscles in the body weaken so much that an ALS patient can no longer breathe after the condition has run its course. For this reason, some choose to die via voluntary euthanasia (also known as death with dignity). Only a few states — Calfornia being one of them — allow it.
Tony Barrett was 55 when he chose physician-assisted dying rather than suffocating from his advanced ALS. After being diagnosed in 2018, he chose to donate his body to science before dying by voluntary euthanasia, but not before raising awareness about ALS and raising money to fund a cure. In November of 2018, he helped raise more than $34,000 at an ALS walk in Orange County, California doing what he loved best — hanging out with the local furry community, engaging with the public, and making people smile.
One of his final acts before dying was to write a letter to medical school students at the University of California-Irvine who would be dissecting him, telling them what made him happy in his life and how he hopes his contribution will aid their future medical careers. Barrett’s letter was posted to the subreddit /r/humansbeingbros, which is dedicated to people going out of their way to be kind to others.
“Hey there doc! My name is Tony and I’ll be your practice cadaver. I sincerely hope my body helps you to become a great doctor,” Barrett wrote at the beginning of the letter. “As you work on my body, please remeber that I had a happy, wonderful life, and you are permitted to giggle at my weird architecture, ooh and aah at the intricacies of my innards, and generally have fun as you learn.”
“I hope I have helped you to pursue your passion. The world needs great doctors, and I have no doubt that you’ll be one,” he continued. “Now, let’s get to work! Pick up that #10 blade and let’s explore this together.”
Barrett’s full letter is included below.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.