The death with dignity movement in Hawaii stands at a crossroads.

After a 22-3 vote in the state Senate, a majority of House members signaling their support, and with the governor’s pledge to sign the bill, an assisted dying law was well on its way to passage.

Modeled on the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, Senate Bill 1129 would have allowed qualified terminally ill residents of Hawaii to obtain medications to end their suffering. Nearly eight in 10 Hawaii residents support this legislation.

Members of the Compassion & Choices group showed their support for medical aid in dying legislation when the session began.

Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Once the bill came up for a hearing in the House Health Committee, however, virulent right-wing opponents launched a full assault on truth and facts with hours of misleading and at times outrageous testimony. Bucking overwhelming public support and the clear majority of legislators, the Catholic Church pulled out all the stops and convinced a few state representatives to bottle up the bill and kill it for this session.

Unfortunately, a vocal minority managed to deny Hawaii residents the opportunity to make their own end-of-life decisions.

Never mind that the same law has worked flawlessly in Oregon for the past 20 years. And, since passage in Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado and Washington, D.C., the same law has withstood similar challenges from the Catholic Church hierarchy and the front organizations it sponsors.

It’s not about whether the bill is well written and full of patient safeguards. The same safeguards that have protected residents of Oregon and other states are all in the bill.

The bill is only deferred and can be brought back up in the next session without going through the Senate again. Until then, we are not going to turn our backs on dying and suffering patients in Hawaii.

We are not going to go away because the church won this round. We will retool, reboot, and start over.

We will also be active in campaigns next election, and we are going to make sure that the people of Hawaii know full well who supported this legislation and who did not.

Continuing our close partnership with the Hawaii Death with Dignity Society and other local advocates, we will work to make sure Hawaii residents have the same right one in six Americans already do: to choose from a full range of end-of-life options without interference from the government or the church.

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