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Medical Aid in Dying Bill Passes Out of Senate

March 30, 2018, 6:14 AM HST · Updated April 2, 8:19 AM
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State House of Representatives. PC: House Democrats

The Hawai‘i Senate on Thursday voted 23-2 to pass House Bill 2739 titled “Our Care, Our Choice Act.”

The medical aid in dying bill allows a mentally capable, terminally ill adult with six months or less to live, the freedom to make their own end-of-life decisions.

The bill is now transmitted to the House for their review and is expected to be enrolled to the Governor for his consideration.

If signed by the governor, Hawaiʻi would become the sixth state in the nation to legalize medical aid in dying.

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On the floor, Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi thanked Senator Karl Rhoads for researching and crafting SB1129. He also acknowledged Senator Rosalyn Baker, Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health and Senator Gil Keith-Agaran, then-Chair of the Committee on Judiciary, and their staff for the efforts made last year to “put forward a public document that we could debate and discuss in order to get to the bill that we would be comfortable upon voting. All of those efforts have helped us get to a better place with the bill being voted on today.”

US Senator Colleen Hanabusa, who is running for governor, applauded the Hawai‘i State Legislature for passing the measure and took the opportunity to urge the governor to sign the bill within the required 10 days to allow patients suffering from terminal illness to decide how they want to spend the remainder of their life. Hanabusa previously submitted testimony in support of H.B. 2739.

“We have debated and discussed this issue for a very long time, and this measure is the right thing to do. I urge the governor to act now,” Hanabusa said. “This important and highly personal decision belongs to the patient, and we should ensure that the regulations and procedures we approve respect their wishes and protect their rights.”

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Hanabusa has supported similar death with dignity legislation.  While serving in the Hawaiʻi State Senate between 2004 and 2007 she introduced three measures resembling H.B. 2739.

  • In 2002, after a House bill advanced, Hanabusa voted to pull companion legislation out of a Senate committee where the Chair refused to hear it. She voted in favor of the measure. It failed following a floor debate by the Hawaiʻi State Senate.
  • In 2004 Hanabusa introduced and supported SB 391, the first of three measures addressing the issue. She proposed SB 1308 in 2005.
  • In 2007, she introduced and voted for SB 1995, which sought to make it legal for a physician to prescribe lethal medication to a patient diagnosed as terminally ill with six months or less to live. At the time, SB 1995 was the fifth attempt to reach consensus on the issue.

The Executive Director of Death with Dignity National Center, Peg Sandeen, has issued the following statement on the passage of HD2739 HD1, Our Care Our Choice Act, in the Hawaiʻi State Senate:

“For nearly two decades Death with Dignity National Center has worked with citizens, legislators, and leaders in Hawaiʻi to bring the right to die with dignity to the people of Hawaiʻi. From former Governor Ben Cayetano to hundreds of citizens who have faithfully worked for this cause, today marks a new beginning in Hawaiʻi’s treatment of the terminally ill.

“We thank the members of the Legislature who recognized that the will of voters could no longer be ignored and brought the bill forward to successful votes in the state House and Senate.

“As we await Governor Ige’s signature on this legislation, we cannot help but think of and thank the many citizens of Hawaiʻi who worked for passage of this law, but never saw it come to pass. We thank them for the courage to speak out and begin this conversation.

“As residents of the seventh jurisdiction in the U.S. to enact an assisted dying statute, the people of Hawaiʻi can feel comfort knowing that the laws in other states, particularly Oregon where it has been in effect for more than 20 years, have proven flawless in their implementation, protecting the rights of patients, family members, and health care professionals as they work through this process. Be assured that the safeguards Hawaiʻi state legislators have enacted into this law will ensure that patients are in control of this process and make their own decisions at every step of the way — as is their right.”

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