Hawaii lawmakers defeat "Medical Aid in Dying" bill
A bill to give terminally ill Hawaii residents medical help to end their lives has died.
HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii lawmakers defeat a bill allowing terminally ill patients to end their own lives. The action comes after decades of debate, which culminated in hours of testimony Thursday morning.
After more than three hours of debate from more than 50 people, the House Committee on Health voted down the Medical Aid in Dying bill.
"It does not fit with our values, with our cultural values, with our aloha," said Joy Yadao from Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate and Compassionate Care.
A supporter of the bill said, "Medical Aid in Dying? works as intended. It's both safe and trusted and there is very strong public support for this option in Hawaii."
In the end, Committee Chair Della Au Bellati told the room lawmakers have a duty to protect the vulnerable, and said this bill doesn't do that.
"I think what we found is that people needed to have this discussion. We've had it and we're going to have to balance the right to choose and our right and our duties and obligations to protect those who are most vulnerable," said Rep. Bellati.
The bill would have allowed medically-competent, terminally-ill patients with six or fewer months to live to take a lethal medication prescribed by a doctor. Opponents called it suicide. Advocates argued it would stop suffering.
"I think it sends a wrong message to our teenagers if we would to allow such a bill to pass that if you're in misery and suffering that it's OK to take your life. And I think that's the wrong message to send to our teenagers," said Beth Arnoult
"Suicide is somebody that wants to die. People who are terminally ill don't want to die -- they just know they can't continue, and this will give them peace of mind to know that they can end their lives on their terms," said Michael Golojuch Jr., the chairman of the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.
The bill was modeled after a similar law in Oregon -- one of five states that gives terminally ill patients the end-of-life option. But, lawmakers raised concerns about oversight, liability, and the possibility of abuse and coercion.
"While I'm definitely support the concept, I don't believe this bill is ready. And we don't have enough time left in the session to fix it," said Rep. Chris Todd.
"Our local polling showed 80 percent of the people in the State of Hawaii are in favor of Medical Aid in Dying. And that's a lot of people who are going to be very disappointed by the decision today," said Mary Steiner, Campaign Manager for Compassion and Choices Hawaii.
The push for a Medical Aid in Dying or Death with Dignity law in Hawaii has been going on for nearly 20 years. Despite today's decision, supporters tell me they'll be back again.
"We'll come back every year until it's passed. We've been fighting for this since the caucus was formed and we will continue to fight for this," said Golojuch.
John Radcliffe, a supporter of the bill, released this statement:
"The deferral of a bill that 80 percent of the voters want, that the four living previous Democratic Governors support, and which Governor Ige also supports, which is strongly supported by the House and Senate Leadership, and hosts of others, is disconcerting and heartbreaking, not to mention inhumane policy.
I am certain a medical aid in dying option will one day be available in our compassionate state, but until then too many dying people will now have to suffer more in their passing on."