Third Hawaii Assisted-Suicide Measure Defeated
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 8, 2005
HONOLULU, HAWAII--For the third time in six years a proposal to make physician-assisted suicide legal in Hawaii has come before state lawmakers, and for the third time in six years, the proposal was effectively shut down last Saturday.
The measure under consideration would have allowed a doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to adults with terminal illnesses which they then could take on their own.
After hearing six hours of heated testimony, the House Health Committee voted to set aside the measure for this legislative session. While it could be brought up in the next session, the committee's chairman, Representative Dennis Arakaki, said there does not seem to be much interest among members to make it a priority.
"At this point, the sentiment is against it," Arakaki explained.
"Unless we're able to assure quality of life, I think there's going to be more and more pressure to look at this alternative."
According to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, nearly 500 people packed the Capitol auditorium where the hearing was held. More than 1,000 had submitted testimony on both sides of the issue.
"Legalizing physician-assisted suicide, the whole essence of society and the medical profession would change," said Chris Niemczyk, who has cerebral palsy. "It is ultimately the state making the decision on which groups can live or die, setting a dangerous precedent."
An Oregon physician, Dr. William Petty, had flown to Honolulu to voice his opposition to the measure.
"Care and treatment can be expensive," Petty said. "Manipulation of patients is a real problem when physician-assisted suicide becomes an option."
In 2002, the Hawaii House passed a similar bill which was later defeated in the Senate. During the last session, the House Judiciary Committee approved another assisted-suicide bill, which the full house decided not to vote on.
Oregon is the only state that has made doctor-assisted suicide legal for people in specific circumstances. Some California lawmakers are considering a similar measure in that state. Efforts to get a "Death with Dignity" bill passed in Vermont have been repeatedly rejected.
Many disability rights advocates have protested against such laws, arguing that they make people with certain disabilities more vulnerable, especially at a time when health care costs are climbing. They have pointed out that many of those who have died under the laws in Oregon and in some European countries were not in the final stages of terminal illness, but instead feared acquiring a disability or becoming dependant on others.