Proposals for medical aid in dying didn’t even get a hearing in the Hawaii Legislature last year, but times have changed.
Senate Bill 1129 would allow licensed physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill, competent adults who have a prognosis of six or fewer months to live. It was passed unanimously Wednesday by the Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Heath.
And its next stop is the Judiciary and Labor Committee, vice chaired by Sen. Karl Rhoads, one of the bill’s introducers.
“Medical treatments are meant to treat an illness or a dysfunction of the body. There is no medical treatment for death,” said Jackie Mishler, a registered nurse.
Kokua Mau, a local hospice and palliative care organization, also opposes the bill.
Janette Koijane, who spoke for the organization at the hearing, called the legislation “premature.” She also cited concerns about how the bill would be funded and implemented.
Support from John Radcliffe, who has worked as a lobbyist in the state for 41 years, may have helped the bill’s prospects this year.
In January, Radcliffe, a terminally ill cancer patient, filed a lawsuit along with the nonprofit organization Compassion & Choices and physician Charles Miller against the state. The suit seeks a legal avenue to establish medical aid in dying as a constitutional right.
State law doesn’t prohibit medical aid in dying outright. But according to the lawsuit, state Attorney General Douglas Chin and David Louie, Chin’s predecessor, have said physicians who prescribe lethal medication could face prosecution.
“Don’t kid yourself, this is not a moral issue,” Radcliffe told the senators in at Wednesday’s hearing. “This is all about relief, life-ending relief. It’s about being human.”
Senators appeared captivated as he spoke. Baker did not stop Radcliffe’s testimony once his allotted time ended, though he quickly wrapped up his speech.
The committee made amendments to the bill before passing it. They include eliminating the “death with dignity” terminology and listing the cause of death on death certificates as the terminal illness.
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