It appears the decades long effort to allow physician assisted death in Hawaii may soon be over with a law that will allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients.
This issue has been avoided by the legislature for many years, because it provokes the kind of emotion that tends to knock other issues off the agenda.
State House leaders moved swiftly to pass their bill by holding a single marathon hearing and a quick floor vote, which didn't give the opponents much time to gather their forces.
Its now up to the Senate – which easily approved the concept last year – and should be able to accept the House bill without much debate. That's because the bill has more safeguards to ensure that no one can abuse the law or pressure someone into suicide.
Assuming the bill becomes law, based on the experience of other states, its unlikely that many people will ever take advantage of it. And the debate itself has been part of a larger movement to address end-of-life issues, both medical and social, to make the dying process less painful and frightening.
It is right that people should have this measure of control over their own lives.
And for opponents of this freedom – especially in the faith community – it's a clear signal that the separation of church and state is a cherished value in Hawaii.