Hawaii’s State Legislature passed a fiercely-debated bill on Thursday that will allow those suffering with terminal illnesses to determine for themselves whether or not it’s time for them to end their own lives.
House Bill 2739, the “Our Care, Our Choice Act,” which was openly supported and endorsed by Governor David Ige (D), allows those who are terminally ill and mentally capable to decide whether they would like to consume life-ending medication.
The aid-in-dying legislation, also known as “assisted suicide”, was passed by Hawaii’s State House with a vote of 39-12 in early March. The State Senate voted 23-2 Thursday to approve the bill, advancing it to the desk of Governor Ige, who must sign or veto the bill no later than April 17.
Ige has publicly supported the bill and is expected to sign it into law. If and when that happens, it will go into effect January 1 2019.
While many Hawaiians are praising the passage of HB 2739, not everyone is happy with how the two votes played out. Many Americans are opposed to aid-in-dying, arguing that pain management medication and hospice care are readily available for those who need it, and that suicide should never be treated as a solution to terminal illness.
But for many of those Hawaiians enduring terminal illnesses and their advocates, the passage of the State’s new aid-in-dying legislation is a considerable milestone in the fight for the rights of the terminally ill.
“I am grateful that I was able to argue on behalf of suffering and dying people in Hawaii and that this legislation will bring an end to some of it,” says patient advocate John Radcliffe, who is living with terminal cancer. “It was one of the high honors of my life that I was allowed to argue on behalf of those same people, my peers.”
“Over the last 25 years, so many people of Hawaii have been devoted to bringing a medical aid-in-dying option to our state and have not lived to see success, adds Compassion & Choices Communication Officer Aubrey Hawk. “They would be so proud and grateful today. Medical aid-in-dying is an option. It need not be exercised, but we will be a more compassionate state for making it accessible to our terminally ill [Hawaii residents] who so desperately need it.”
Aid-In-Dying Legislation is Slowly Spreading Throughout the United States
According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 73 percent of Americans believe a doctor should be allowed to end a terminally-ill patient’s life if that patient has requested they do so.
Hawaii will become the sixth US State to pass aid-in-dying legislation, should Governor Ige sign the bill into law. The practice is currently legal in California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington State, and the District of Columbia.
Several other States are currently considering aid-in-dying legislation. According to DeathWithDignity.org, 22 States currently have bills under consideration, or ballot initiatives planned, or are otherwise considering legislation similar to Hawaii’s HB 2739.