"Death with Dignity" Bill Up For Debate

Andi van der Vort
Andi van der Vort
Dr. John McDonnell
Dr. John McDonnell

(KHNL) - Physician assisted suicide is a controversial, and very emotional issue for millions of americans.

But this week, a new bill related to Death with Dignity went up for debate at the State Capitol.

Its not a new issue, for over 20 years, people have been pushing for the terminally ill to receive a lethal dose of medication to end their life, if they want it. But with a new Legislature, there is new interest in the "Death with Dignity" bill.

Andi van der Vort has a peaceful place in Lanikai. She also has peace of mind when it comes to her death. Knowing before she dies, she won't suffer.

"I've got my pills, I've got my pills but not everyone has them."

But under a measure heard at the State Capitol, those terminally ill could receive a lethal dose of medication to end their life, and end their suffering. "They have their medication, they have tubes coming out, they are vomiting, they're not able to leave their house, the quality of life is gone." says van der Vort.

But physicians opposed to assisted suicide feel people shouldn't have to choose between suffering or death, they should choose instead, better health care.

"It's the physicians job to relieve that suffering, not to execute them. Its the physicians responsibility to relieve that pain, we have specialists in pain relief now." says Dr. John McDonnell, of the Hawaii Medical Association.

Hundreds, passionate about their views, turn out to testify before lawmakers, about the quality of life at the end of life. Some, with disabilities, worry the bill would encourage those with a diminished quality of life to end theirs - sooner. "What we're concerned about is that people view people with disabilities as not having a diminished life that we don't lead full lives." says Patricia Lockwood, a Honolulu resident.

Those who deal daily with death, say no matter how you feel about the bill, this issue is bringing to light end of life care and how people should be treated. "The public is saying we need to care well for the dying." says Kenneth Zeri, with Hospice Hawaii.

Lawmakers in conference committee Wednesday evening voted to hold the measure, which basically kills the "Death with Dignity" bill before it can reach the full State House.