Lawmakers table controversial 'death with dignity' bill following intense debate

'Death with dignity' bill to face another round of intense scrutiny
Published: Mar. 23, 2017 at 11:16 AM HST|Updated: Mar. 23, 2017 at 11:45 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Following intense debate Thursday, a controversial "death with dignity" measure was deferred by legislators, and appears essentially dead this session.

The news is a harsh blow to aid in dying advocates, who had believed this session was their best chance at passing the proposal.

Under the measure, permanent Hawaii residents who are terminally ill would have been able to obtain a prescription for medication to end their life.

On Thursday, lawmakers said the bill is poorly written and would need considerable changes.

The House Health Committee deferred the bill, essentially killing it.

The issue has proven complicated and polarizing in the islands.

Earlier this month, Senate Bill 1129 passed with overwhelming support in the Senate in a 22-to-3 vote, after hours of passionate testimony from lawmakers on both sides.

Advocates of the measure said it's an individual's right to choose and it can end suffering with a more compassionate, painless death on a patient's terms.

According to testimony submitted by the National Director of Policy & Programs for Compassion and Choices, a recent Hawaii poll showed overwhelming support from voters with about 80 percent approving of a death with dignity act.

However, opponents of physician-assisted suicide say it could lower quality of care and lead to elder abuse. Some doctors have argued it violates their Hippocratic oath, and many believe it has the real potential to harm vulnerable individuals.

The Hawaii Medical Association has switched its longstanding opposition to medical aid in dying and has recently adopted a neutral stance, which the Hawaii Disability Rights Center also shares.

Five states have legalized aid-in-dying laws -- Oregon, Washington, Colorado, California, and Vermont. Physician-assisted suicide was also legalized in Montana following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2009.

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