Hearing set for a bill that would legalize medical aid in dying in Hawaii

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A bill that would allow terminally ill adults in Hawaii to end their lives with doctor-prescribed drugs will be discussed at a joint committee hearing Tuesday.

The sensitive subject has been debated in the islands for two decades.

So far, six states have legalized medical aid in dying.

Modeled after California's law, House Bill 2739, entitled 'Our Care, Our Choice' would institute a process where adult residents in Hawaii with a medically confirmed terminal illness, and less than six months to live, could request a prescription for medication that would end their life.

A nearly identical 'death with dignity' bill almost passed in last year's legislative session, but stalled in the House Health Committee following concerns about sufficient safeguards.

Rep. John Mizuno, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, is anticipating a large turn out on Tuesday.

"We're expecting people to fly in from neighbor islands, it's such a big issue," he said. "We're going to listen to the will of the people and that's going to be the end game."

Deacon Walter Yoshimitsu of the Hawaii Catholic Conference says the church's opposition won't change.

"I don't think it's right for us to shortcut your natural life," he said. "We know we are made in the likeness of God and every life is precious."

For cancer patient John Radcliffe, who was diagnosed in 2014, he says a bill like this is long overdue.

While undergoing his 59th round of chemotherapy Saturday, Radcliffe said in a statement "Medical aid in dying is a merciful option that I, and the overwhelming majority of us in Hawaii, believe all terminally ill adults should have if their suffering becomes unbearable."

"This issue is a matter of providing people with a choice and everyone should be able to make this decision for themselves," said Rep. Scott Y. Nishimoto, chair of the Judiciary Committee, in a news release. "For people who decide they want this option there will be proper safeguards in place to protect everyone involved and prevent any possible abuse."

The bill would also impose criminal sanctions for tampering with a patient's request for a prescription, or coercing a patient to request one.

The hearing will take place on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at the Capitol in the Chamber Floor Auditorium.

You can submit online testimony here.

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