HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The medical aid-in-dying bill continues to move through the state Capitol as senators had their first chance to hear the controversial proposal Friday morning.
The Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health Committee passed House Bill 2739 unanimously and without amendments.
It now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"It doesn't require anybody to take advantage of it. It merely gives people the choice and option, and I for one happen to believe that that is the appropriate mechanism," said State Sen. Rosalyn Baker, committee chairwoman.
"There is separation of church and state mandated by our constitution. One's religious views are not relevant to our legislative process," said State Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Keaau, Pahoa, Kalapana.
The bill allows a physician to prescribe life-ending medication to a terminally ill, but mentally-capable patient with less than six months to live.
Under the bill, the patient must be able to take the medication themselves, only physicians can prescribe it (and not advance practice nurses) and it requires a mental health consultation.
Supporters say the bill has some of the strongest safeguards in the nation, but critics say they want more to improve enforcement and prevent abuse.
"We're extremely disappointed that there were several concerns raised by the community that were not addressed," said Eva Andrade, executive director of the Hawaii Family Forum.
Medical aid-in-dying bills have been debated at the state Legislature for more than two decades.
And during this legislative session, as in years past, big crowds have turned out to make sure their voices were heard.
So far, six states have legalized medical aid-in-dying.
But other states have pushed back against the similar measures. In 2017, 27 states considered aid-in-dying bills and none passed, CNN has reported.