Hawai`i Becoming the 7th Jurisdiction in the US To Enact Medical Aid In Dying Legislation
“TO BE OR NOT TO BE” WILL BE A VALID QUESTION IN HAWAI`I AS DEATH WITH DIGNITY BECOMES LAW
Hawaii Becoming the 7th Jurisdiction in the US To Enact Medical Aid In Dying Legislation
By Scott Foster
Medical Aid In Dying, “the defining civil rights struggle of our time,” will be signed into law by Hawai`i Governor David Ige at 10:30 AM Hawai`i Time on Thursday, April 5th. Hawaii Will Become the 7th Jurisdiction in the US to enact such legislation. They are, California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia, and Montana where their Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that physician-assisted death is legal there under existing state law.
Governor Ige sent out an official invitation to the signing today, Tuesday April 3rd, and hundreds are expected to participate in the Governor’s 5th floor office at the Hawai`i State Capitol. As for the actual implementation date, The bill says:
“This Act shall take effect on January 1, 2019; provided that section 8 shall take effect upon approval.
SECTION 8. The department of health shall form an advisory group consisting of a designee of the department and no fewer than five other members, which shall include, at least, one palliative care specialist, hospice care specialist, medical educator, and a non-medical member of the community. The advisory group shall provide advice to the department to facilitate the implementation of chapter , Hawaii Revised Statutes, including:
(1) The data set to be collected and tracked by the department;
(2) The preparation of appropriate forms and checklists for use by attending providers, consulting providers, and counselors; and
(3) Otherwise assisting the department with the implementation of chapter , Hawaii Revised Statutes.”
Scott Foster, the founding Communications Director for the Hawai`i Death With Dignity Society has worked to educate the general public and elected officials about the issue for over 25 years. Foster said, “The reason this bill has not passed our legislature is primarily because of the opposition of the Catholic Church and other Conservative Christian congregations. Hawai`i is a much more conservative place than most people might suspect and we are greatly relieved to finally see our bill passed.”
Foster also noted, “Our difficult challenge has always been to encourage people talk about death and their end of life choices before it’s too late for them to do so. Death is coming to us all and it will become a legal option in Hawai`i for a terminally diagnosed individual to end their lives in any manner they might choose: comatose from pain meds and connected to tubes and machines in a cold hospital or while they still can, end their lives with dignity in a final conversation with loved ones at home with their pets beside them and their favorite music playing.”
Hawaii lawmakers have indeed debated the once-controversial issue for nearly 20 years. The last time the full state Legislature took up the issue was in 2002 when the House approved a death-with-dignity bill but the Senate fell three votes short. In 2017, a similar bill cleared the full Senate but it stalled in the House Health committee. This year, the House drafted a bill (House Bill 2739) and approved it 39-12.
During the House debate, Rep. John Mizuno, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee at the Hawaii State Legislature, described the issue as “the defining civil rights struggle of our time.” Hawaii will join California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, the District of Columbia, and Montana where their Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that physician-assisted death is legal there under existing state law.
RECENT POLL RESULTS
“Five in 7 Hawaii voters support efforts at the state Capitol to legalize medical aid in dying for terminally ill patients, according to the latest Hawaii Poll by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which found consistent support across younger and older voters, men and women, and ethnic groups statewide. The poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy of Washington, D.C., asked 800 randomly selected voters whether they think legislation allowing medically assisted death should be approved by the state Legislature. A proposal making its way through the Legislature would allow mentally competent residents who are at least 18 years old and have been given six months or less to live to request prescriptions for lethal doses of medication to be self-administered.”