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Hawaii on Brink of Passing Assisted Suicide Bill

Two House committees in the Hawaii state legislature voted on Wednesday to legalize medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults, paving the way for a full House vote where it is expected to pass.

According to the Honolulu Civil Beat, House Bill 2739 passed the Judiciary Committee by a 7-1 vote in favor and the Health and Human Services Committee by a 4-1 vote. This will allow the bill to be voted on by the full House next week and then on to the Senate where a similar bill was passed with overwhelming support last year.

Hawaii Governor David Ige has signaled that he intends to sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.

Lawmakers say they’ve made this bill one of the toughest assisted suicide bills in the nation by requiring a prognosis of six months or less to live due to a terminal illness. The patient must be mentally capable of deciding and have one counseling session with a qualified person, but this can include a telephone or internet chat. A written request must be witnessed by two people with one not related to the patient, and the patient must self-administer the lethal drugs. It also calls for a 48-hour waiting period between the written request and the filling of the prescription.


“We’ve come up with a bill that I believe is balanced,” said Judiciary Committee Chair Scott Nishimoto. “It’s one that I’m extremely comfortable with.”

Assisted suicide activist groups such as Compassion & Choices Hawaii were also happy with the outcome of the vote.

“We look forward to working with the Legislature to expand end-of-life care options for terminally ill kamaaina to give them and their families peace of mind,” said Aubrey Hawk, spokeswoman for Compassion & Choices Hawaii.

But not everyone is pleased with the progress of the bill. Tarita Tehotu, a native of Hawaii, was happy to see more safeguards added to the bill but is still opposed.

“What message are we going to give our next generation?” Tehotu said, likening medical aid in dying to suicide. “This is to me another form of annihilation of our people.”

According to the teachings of the Church, the taking of human life, even for the purposes of ending suffering, is never permissible.

“To sanction the taking of innocent human life is to contradict a primary purpose of law in an ordered society,” the USCCB states in this very informative Q&A on why the Church is against the practice of physician assisted suicide.

“A law or court decision allowing assisted suicide would demean the lives of vulnerable patients and expose them to exploitation by those who feel they are better off dead. Such a policy would corrupt the medical profession, whose ethical code calls on physicians to serve life and never to kill. The voiceless or marginalized in our society -- the poor, the frail elderly, racial minorities, millions of people who lack health insurance -- would be the first to feel pressure to die.”

Our moral tradition holds that human life is the most basic gift from a loving God -- a gift over which we have stewardship, not absolute dominion.

“As responsible stewards of life, we must never directly intend to cause our own death or that of anyone else. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are always gravely wrong.”

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