Husband's suicide resurrects right to die debate - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Husband's suicide resurrects right to die debate

Robert Yagi Robert Yagi
Scott Foster Scott Foster
Lynn Ellen Lynn Ellen
Dr. Josh Green Dr. Josh Green
Rep. Blake Oshiro Rep. Blake Oshiro

By Tim Sakahara bio | email

KAILUA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Days after allegedly shooting his dying wife, in an attempt to put her out of her misery the medical examiner confirms Robert Yagi has taken his own life. Police are tight-lipped tonight on why Yagi, who was apparently suicidal, was allowed to post bail Friday and go home.

Police say the 71-year old shot himself with a flare gun last week after first attempting to kill his terminally ill wife inside Castle Medical Center. We asked the Honolulu Police Department today why he wasn't released to a mental health facility. The department says it cannot comment on open cases but said generally if someone shows suicidal tendencies a police psychologist makes that decision.

In the meantime the tragedy has renewed the debate over physician assisted suicide. Hawaii's death with dignity bill would allow a competent person to take a lethal dose of medicine if two doctors agree the patient has less than six months to live. That bill has failed before and it isn't likely to pass anytime soon.

The Yagi family case has shocked the community. In the alleged plan Robert Yagi loaded a flare gun with a shotgun shell and shot his terminally ill wife in her hospital bed and then himself. The weapon misfired and neither was seriously hurt. On Thursday he was charged with attempted murder. Friday he posted $50,000 bail. Then on Sunday December 13 Yagi's children found him hanging in his Kailua home.

"It's tragic. It's tragic for the family. It's tragic for the friends. It's tragic for the community," said Scott Foster, Hawaii Death with Dignity Society.

Foster says he feels Yagi's pain. His wife Lynn Ellen died from bone cancer 11 years ago and wishes she had the option to peacefully take her own life prior to the pain.

"Going through her terrible death by cancer it's made me far more active because I want that choice for myself when my time comes," said Foster.

As emotional as the Yagi case is supporters and opponents don't think it's enough to get a physician assisted suicide law passed.

"I don't think it's good to react to tragedy and try to pass laws because we need to be thoughtful about things and if we allow emotion to get into it we would pass all kinds of laws," said Dr. Josh Green, (D) Kona, and Kohala.

State Senator and medical doctor Josh Green opposed the death with dignity bill because he says you wouldn't pass a law police wouldn't enforce so why pass a law doctors won't practice.

"If you're going to pass a bill you better make sure you pass something the people that actually carry it out are on board with," said Dr. Green.

"Even if the bill doesn't pass I still think it's important for people to talk about it. They need to have a plan in place," said Rep. Blake Oshiro, (D) Aiea, and Halawa.

Representative Blake Oshiro introduced death with dignity last time and isn't sure yet he'll resurrect it again. But one thing is sure, the issue is not going to die anytime soon.

"In our society we don't like to talk about death, unfortunately its coming to all of us," said Foster.

In 2004 the Hawaii Death with Dignity Society conducted a poll that found the majority of voters approve of physician assisted suicide. But Dr. Green points out the majority of doctors do not.

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