Hawaii is expected to become the sixth state to legalize assisted suicide following the recent passage of a new bill. In a 23-2 vote last Thursday, state lawmakers approved the measure, which allows doctors to sign off on prescriptions for terminally ill patients that will assist them in dying.
Under the controversial bill, adults in Hawaii “with a medically confirmed terminal disease and less than six months to live may choose to obtain a prescription for medication” to end their life, United Press International reported.
Democratic Gov. David Ige is expected to sign off on the bill, following in the footsteps of Washington, California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.
Sen. Russell Ruderman (D-HI) praised the new measure, which he believes honors individual freedom.
“If you don’t believe in it, don’t do it,” he said, according to ABC News. “But there is no reason to deny to others the freedom to live and die as we choose.”
Opponents of the bill have warned of the risk it poses to the elderly, disabled, sick and the poor.
Sen. Breene Harimoto, a Democrat and pancreatic cancer survivor, voted against the bill. Citing his faith, he explained that he could not vote to create “an environment of hopelessness” by allowing doctors to administer drugs that end life.
“My faith in God, prayers and sense of hope got me through this,” Harimoto said. “Because of this personal experience, I feel so strongly that we must always have hope and never give up.”
But those in favor of the bill have insisted that several safeguarding measurements will ensure that the new law is not abused in any way. For example, patients who qualify for the life-ending drugs must make two oral requests, 20-days apart. Patients are also required to sign a written request with two separate witnesses present, one of whom cannot be a family member.
The Hawaii Family Forum, however, has argued that citizens already have plenty of control over their end-of-life care, and that the bill “threatens the most vulnerable in our community.”
“Physician-assisted suicide is not the solution,” the pro-life Christian organization’s website notes. “Patients already have control over their end of life wishes and can determine how much or how little care they would like to receive.”
The HFF believes that the bill grants doctors and nurses a “free get-out-of-jail card” when it comes to their actions at this critical and sensitive time in someone’s life.
“We should respond to suffering with true compassion and solidarity,” wrote Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow Ryan Anderson following the bill’s passage in the state senate. “Doctors should help their patients to die a dignified death of natural causes, not assist in killing. Physicians are always to care, never to kill.”