After 2 decades of debate, medical 'aid in dying' bill signed into law

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For more than 20 years, Hawaii has had an emotional debate over medically-assisted suicide.

And with the stroke of a pen Thursday, the debate was done.

Surrounded by lawmakers and supporters of the "Our Care, Our Choice Act," Gov. David Ige signed the bill into law.

"We have gotten to a point in our community that it does make sense to give the patient a choice to request the medication, obtain it and take it, or ultimately change their mind if they so choose to," he said.

Ige called it the logical next step for dying patients, giving them an option besides palliative care..

Hawaii is the seventh jurisdiction in the U.S. to legalize what's been dubbed "death with dignity" by supporters.

Adult patients who are terminally ill have to meet strict guidelines to get the life-ending prescription medication.

Cancer sufferer John Radcliffe said it's important patients have that option.

"Every other living democratic governor also supports this merciful action to make dying less terrifying and far more peaceful for those up against a tortured passing," he said.

Opponents fear elderly and disabled people will be pressured to end their lives. They worry the law could encourage people with depression to consider suicide.

But supporters point to safeguards.

Someone who wants the medication must meet counseling requirements and be mentally competent. In addition, two doctors have to agree that the patent has less than six months to live.

State Rep. Della Au Belatti authored and introduced the measure.

"It's a choice an individual can make so they can think about how they want to live the rest of their life," she said

"We know that our loved ones will eventually die but they don't need to suffer," Ige said.

The law takes effect January 1, 2019.

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