Seventeen state legislatures across the country were considering physician-assisted suicide bills this year, but Hawaii’s effort is already over.

Hawaii lawmakers chose not to hear legislation that would allow a terminally ill, competent adult at least 50 years old to get a lethal dose of medication to end his or her life.

Senate Bill 2373 died in the Consumer Protection and Health Committee, chaired by Sen. Roz Baker.

A similar measure that was introduced last year in the House and was still alive this session also failed to get a hearing. House Bill 1255 stalled in the Health Committee, chaired by Rep. Della Au Belatti.

This graphic by the nonprofit Death with Dignity shows the status of physician-assisted dying by state.
This graphic by the nonprofit Death with Dignity shows what states allow physician-assisted deaths and where it’s being considered. Courtesy: Death with Dignity

Peg Sandeen, executive director of Death with Dignity, said in an email Monday that the national nonprofit worked with a local group to “get a fair hearing in the Senate.” But that didn’t happen.

Oahu resident Lucien Wong brought up his concerns about end-of-life options in Hawaii during a hearing last week on a separate bill, but that’s about as much light as the issue saw this session.

“With Hawaii’s rapidly aging population resulting from the baby boom wave it is necessary for the state to prepare itself for services such as hospice, palliative care and end of live options which will be needed by resident seniors and other terminally ill patients before Hawaii’s public & private medical facilities and services become seriously overwhelmed and/or inadequate,” he said in his written testimony on House Bill 1811.

Wong was the only private individual who showed up last Tuesday to testify in person on the measure, which would have established an Elderly Working Group to recommend a strategic plan to address health care concerns and needs for Hawaii’s seniors. The Health and Human Services committees deferred it indefinitely.

Death with Dignity is pushing the issue in multiple states, pointing at how California, Washington and Oregon have passed laws allowing physician-assisted dying.

New York lawmakers recently introduced a measure to make it the sixth state that allows the practice. A strong effort in Iowa died last week after a robust debate, according to the Des Moines Register. And Maryland legislators ended Friday with hours of “heart-wrenching testimony,” according to the Baltimore Sun.

Hawaii’s “death with dignity” bill was one of more than 2,600 that died this session after failing to meet last Friday’s “first lateral” deadline in the Legislature. Read about other bills that didn’t pass, and what’s still alive here.

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