When I am faced with an incurable condition and am of sound mind, I, along with a clear majority of Hawaii residents, want to have access to life-ending medications, whether I choose to use them or not. In medical ethics, this choice is based on the principle of autonomy.

With a six-month prognosis, I already have the autonomous choice to continue or not continue treatments, accept hospice services or not, stay at home or not. This should extend to my choice of where and when I will die with the help of medications.

Thus, my ethical right becomes my legal right, as it should. Twenty years of Death with Dignity (which Medical Aid-in-Dying is based on) in Oregon have shown no abuse and has given great comfort to individuals and families.

Rep Scott Nishimoto and Rep John Mizuno chat during death dying HB hearing in the Capitol Auditorium. 5 hour hearing.

Reps. Scott Nishimoto, left, and John Mizuno chat during the medical aid-in-dying hearing at the Capitol Auditorium last week.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

I am a retired nurse. I practiced in Hawaii for eight years and before that, in Oregon for 25 years, both before and after the Death with Dignity law was implemented in 1997. I have cared for many, many people during their dying process.

I always recommend hospice and palliative care to all people who have less than six months to live. Hospice has much to offer to people who are dying. We need more hospice and palliative care services available to all who have an incurable condition and are facing their end. I still am engaged in hospice as a volunteer. I see three patients every week.

Loss Of Dignity, Autonomy

However, hospice and palliative care do not meet the needs of all patients in the last six months of their life. Prior to the Death with Dignity law, I have seen much needless suffering endured by human beings as they approach their death. Sometimes pain cannot be controlled and bodily functions not regulated, causing suffering we healthy people cannot imagine.

The sense of control and the choice of this option brings peace and comfort to patients and their families.

Loss of dignity and autonomy, and the loss of all pleasure in life, which we take for granted, can bring more suffering to dying people, as well as their families — suffering that hospice and palliative care cannot alleviate.

I have also seen patients and their families find peace and comfort in having access to medical aid in dying after the law was in place in 1997. In fact, many people never fill the prescriptions or do not use them at all even if the prescription is filled. The sense of control and the choice of this option brings peace and comfort to patients and their families.

We have 20 years of data from the Oregon program. Seriously mentally ill people and those with dementia have been screened out. There have been no complaints to the Medical Board, the Board of Nursing, Disability Rights organizations, local police, State Police or the Oregon Health Authority, which keeps and publishes all the data from this program. The law works as intended in Oregon, as it will in Hawaii.

Our elected lawmakers are listening to their constituents, and I, along with so many other Hawaii residents, am grateful. Our hope is that this bill will continue to be approved by the full House and Senate until it becomes law.

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