- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2018

The Hawaii Senate sent legislation legalizing physician-assisted suicide to the governor’s desk on Thursday.

Democratic Gov. David Ige is expected to sign the bill, making Hawaii the eighth jurisdiction where physicians can prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients who wish to die and have a prognosis of six months or less to live.

Matt Valliere, executive director of the Patients Rights Action Fund, which opposes physician-assisted suicide, said the bill “unfairly puts vulnerable lives at risk for abuse and coercion.”

“Assisted suicide is dangerous public policy with potentially deadly consequences for everyone, but especially people with disabilities, the sick, the poor, and the elderly,” Mr. Valliere said in a statement. “We should prioritize protecting these vulnerable members of society instead of adding to the challenges they face.”

The Hawaii Senate passed the Our Care, Our Choice Act by a 23 to 2 vote. The bill made it through the lower chamber earlier this year by a 39 to 12 vote.

Oregon became the first state to legalize assisted suicide in 1994, when voters approved a ballot measure. Four additional states — California, Colorado, Vermont and Washington state — and the District of Columbia have also enacted legislation permitting the practice.

The Montana Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that nothing in state law prevents physicians from assisting terminally ill patients to end their lives.

Kim Callinan, chief executive officer of Compassion & Choices, which advocates aid in dying, said Hawaiians are now “one step closer to having peace of mind at the end of their lives.”

Aubrey Hawk, communications officer for Compassion & Choices Hawaii, said aid in dying makes Hawaii a “more compassionate state” for its terminally ill citizens.

“Medical aid in dying is an option,” Ms. Hawk said in a statement. “It need not be exercised, but we will be a more compassionate state for making it accessible to our terminally ill kama’aina who so desperately need it.”

Bills to legalize physician-assisted suicide have failed to gain traction in seven states this year, including in Connecticut and Massachusetts this month. None of the 29 states where aid-in-dying legislation was introduced last year passed the measures into law.

The Hawaii legislation requires two health care providers to confirm the patient’s diagnosis, prognosis and medical competence over a span of no more than 15 days before the life-ending drugs can be prescribed.

But Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, said there are insufficient safeguards against abuse and coercion in the legislation.

“America’s most vulnerable citizens, including those who are elderly, terminally ill, disabled, and depressed, are worthy of life and equal protection under the law,” Ms. Foster said in a statement. “AUL strongly urges Governor Ige to veto this fatally flawed legislation.”

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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