John Radcliffe, a familiar presence around the Hawaii State Capitol for decades and an advocate for death with dignity legislation, is dead.

Radcliffe, 78, passed away at his home in Honolulu around 8 p.m. Tuesday after ending his life with prescribed medication.

He had battled terminal colon cancer for several years that later spread to his lungs and liver.

John Radcliffe seated SB1129 Death Dying measure in Capitol room 229. 15 feb 2017
John Radcliffe testifying on death with dignity legislation at the Capitol in 2017. He died Tuesday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Radcliffe’s death was confirmed by Capitol Consultants, the Honolulu-based lobbying firm specializing in government relations and politics that he co-founded.

Radcliffe often said that he welcomed being called the “poster boy” for Hawaii’s lengthy struggle to allow for physician-assisted suicide, as death with dignity is sometimes called.

“I am known mostly for lobbying for tobacco and liquor companies, gambling interests and prescription drug companies,” he told Denby Fawcett for a 2018 story in Civil Beat. “The issue I am urging passage for now is on the side of angels. I am the guy it will help, and other people like me.”

Hawaii’s Our Care, Our Choice Act was implemented Jan. 1, 2019.

“I just wanted to help people,” Radcliffe told a Civil Beat reporter months before the law went into effect. “I don’t know where that impulse comes from. It has always been inside of me.”

Local residents 18 years old or older who are diagnosed with a terminal illness and have a prognosis of six months or fewer to live “may obtain aid-in-dying prescription after two separate verbal requests to a physician, a written request with a witness, and a mental health assessment to ensure the patients are capable of making medical decisions for themselves,” according to the Hawaii Department of Health.

Born in a northern Wisconsin town of 3,000 people, Radcliffe, along with his wife of 59 years, moved to Hawaii in 1975 to become the executive director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

He kept that job for 13 years before resigning to launch an unsuccessful campaign to represent the Honolulu Congressional district in Hawaii’s 1988 primary election.

Radcliffe went on to become a prominent fixture of the Capitol as a lobbyist for tobacco, liquor and gambling interests.

He was diagnosed with stage four cancer in June 2014. At that time, a doctor gave him a prognosis of six to 24 months to live.

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