Senate approves death with dignity bill after emotional floor debate

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's controversial death with dignity measure now heads to the state House after an emotional Senate floor debate Tuesday.

State Sen.Breene Harimoto opposed the bill, and talked about his own experience with cancer.

"In June of 2015, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I thought my life was over," he said. "I was devastated and broke down and cried, thinking I would die soon."

The cancer is now in remission and Harimoto said the experience is one of the reasons he opposes medical aid in dying laws.

"I wondered what anyone who was given six months or less to live would do with those pills. It would be too easy and tempting, in a moment of weakness and despair, to reach for those pills to end it all," he said.

"I'm just glad I didn't have those pills when I was suffering so much."

But Harimoto was just one of three senators who opposed the bill in Tuesday's floor vote.

Health Committee Chairman Josh Green, an ER doctor, was part of a large majority in support.

"This is landmark legislation," he said.

If approved, terminally ill, competent adult patients with less than six months to live could receive a lethal dose of medication. They would have to take it themselves and two doctors would be involved in the prescription.

"A poll in December 2016 indicated that 80 percent of Hawaii voters support aid and dying," said Rosalyn Baker, who represents West Maui.

Added Sen. Laura Thielen: "While I don't think this is a popularity vote, I think it's so important that so many people do want to have this option available to them," she said.

Bill supporters say the bill will likely face more opposition in the state House.

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