Doctor-assisted suicide close to becoming law

  • State Sen. Breene Harimoto, D-Oahu, who is battling cancer, stands on the floor of the Hawaii Senate Thursday in Honolulu to voice his opposition to a medically assisted suicide bill. (Audrey McAvoy/AP photo)

HONOLULU — Hawaii lawmakers approved legislation Thursday that would make it the latest liberal-leaning state to legalize medically assisted suicide.

The all-Democratic state Senate voted 23-2 to pass the measure that has already cleared the House. It allows doctors to fulfill requests from terminally ill patients for prescription medication that will allow them to die.


The governor has said he will sign the bill, which would make Hawaii the sixth state to legalize the practice, plus Washington, D.C.

The legislation includes safeguards intended to prevent abuse, but opponents said it puts the poor, elderly, sick and disabled at risk. Lawmakers have heard hours of impassioned testimony from advocates and opponents.

John Radcliffe, who was given six months to two years to live after being diagnosed with cancer in 2014, previously testified in favor of the measure and said Thursday that he was grateful it passed.

“I’m just glad that Hawaii has finally shown a little mercy with its justice,” he said.

Radcliffe, who has been diagnosed with colon cancer that metastasized and spread to his liver, didn’t attend the vote but said the legislation would help those struggling with pain, poor quality of life and stress.

“For some people, it will be a relief to know that in the end, they and their doctor can figure out medication that will put you to sleep and your family can be there. And all is well and — aloha,” he said.

Sen. Breene Harimoto, D-Oahu, spoke Thursday about his battle with pancreatic cancer, saying he could never vote to create “an environment of hopelessness” that would allow a doctor to help cause death.

“My faith in God, prayers and sense of hope got me through this,” the Democrat said. “Because of this personal experience, I feel so strongly that we must always have hope and never give up.”

Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, said the measure was about freedom.

“If you don’t believe in it, don’t do it. But there is no reason to deny to others the freedom to live and die as we choose,” he said.

The chamber’s only doctor, Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, who works in an emergency room, voted for the bill but said he wished lawmakers would take more time for debate.

Hawaii Family Forum said in written testimony that the legislation may create subtle pressure on the elderly to end their lives early so they are not a burden to their families.

Among the safeguards are a requirement that two health care providers confirm a patient’s diagnosis, prognosis, ability to make decisions and that they voluntarily made the request. A counselor also must determine that the patient is capable and does not appear to be suffering from a lack of treatment of depression.

The patient must make two oral requests for the life-ending medication, with a 20-day waiting period between each. They also must sign a written request witnessed by two people, one of whom can’t be a relative.

The measure creates criminal penalties for anyone who tampers with a request or coerces a prescription request.

Gov. David Ige’s administrative director, Ford Fuchigami, said the safeguards are sufficient to minimize abuse. He said in written testimony that the legislation will allow terminally ill patients to decide for themselves when and how their lives should end.

Doctor-assisted deaths are legal in California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington state and the District of Columbia. Last year, the Hawaii Senate approved similar legislation, but the state House voted it down.

Montana doesn’t have a law allowing or denying the practice, but its Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that doctors could use a patient’s request for life-ending medication as a defense against criminal charges.


Some see providing the choice as a logical evolution in a medical care system that is advanced in helping people live longer but limited in preventing slow, painful deaths.

Critics say they are concerned that the option will lead to hasty decisions, misdiagnoses and waning support for palliative care, in which dying people can be sedated to relieve suffering.

  1. gmatch March 30, 2018 10:34 pm

    In Belgium Doctors used the same laws to euthanize older people. Scary – especial if you add the exceptional US insanity.

  2. Who Thought March 31, 2018 8:16 am

    A sad, sad day for Hawaii. Especially for the doctors who took this Hippocratic Oath: “Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If
    it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my
    power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with
    great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not
    play at God”

  3. Bradley Williams March 31, 2018 9:35 am

    Pardon me just saying the individual is in control does not make it so. This bill was full of political double speak that deceives the public. It should be held to the same business standards as false advertising that we all abide by.
    Hawaii 2018 H.B.NO. 2739 perpetuates the lie of self administration with no witness to the administration to honor our choice
    This bill leads and uses double speak through out. Countering the first statement it should say that over 20 states have rejected this in 2017-18.
    Allowing an heir to be one of the witnesses in the sign up process eviscerates flaunted safeguards.
    “These rigorous safeguards…” are unenforceable.
    “The lie of Self administered” is mentioned 11 times is used to deflect normal scrutiny while the provision to have an ordinary witness to the administration is missing.
    Specifically active euthanasia is allowed (page 30 line 16 and page 33 line 8&9) which makes this the most unsafe and subject to abuse of all the states, counter to the author’s claim.
    Again like previous offerings this process can start and end in death in 16 days, all before the rest of the family learns. Immunity for predatory corporations, heirs, strangers, guardians, care givers…. is immediate and records are prohibited to be used in investigations.
    Governor Reject this hollow state sanctioned suicide and euthanasia bill. Political double speak should be held accountable to the same standards as false advertising which we all live by.
    Bradley Williams
    President MTaas org
    PS: the page and line numbers are before amendments.

    1. Elizabeth Krsnapriya Bush March 31, 2018 5:22 pm

      Right on, sir.

      1. Bradley Williams April 1, 2018 12:36 am

        Thanks for the encouragement as we join the side we are on.

        1. Elizabeth Krsnapriya Bush April 1, 2018 9:23 am

          I rarely speak out on political matters, as you know. Personalities aside, the notion of making it legal or even desirable for those of us who who have vowed to save lives and comfort the hopeless is indicative of the value placed on human life. In my opinion, there is no chance this “power” will not be abused in the name of “choice”. Many poor or disabled will “choose” death over suffering or have it chosen for them. Please join me in resisting human euthanasia by spreading my words to others.

          1. Bradley Williams April 1, 2018 9:29 am

            “Doctor-Prescribed Suicide threatens those who are elderly, who are poor, who have disabilities or terminal illnesses, Actually, it threatens every one of us by encouraging utilitarian judgments and actions on the part of the medical profession and insurance companies.” Anne Fox

          2. Elizabeth Krsnapriya Bush April 1, 2018 10:02 am

            It is an invitation to genocide on a mass scale of all persons deemed to be a burden to the state. Completely unacceptable. Those who wish to end their own lives, can do so by other means than this. I spent seven years in University and 22 years in psychiatric nursing
            practice to prevent suicides; not to encourage and facilitate them.

          3. Bradley Williams April 1, 2018 11:34 am

            As you say:”It is an invitation to genocide on a mass scale…” and with instant immunity. This is one leg of eugenics with sterilization and abortion the others. Plain as day. Maybe congress should do a package deal disallowing support for all three.
            “Join the side you are on.”

  4. Elizabeth Krsnapriya Bush March 31, 2018 5:23 pm

    Dr. Josh Green for Lieutenant Governor. Having spent my 22-year career in psychiatric nursing preventing suicides, I regard this as a chilling development. You have condoned a very slippery ethical slope. Both you and I bring people who stand on the threshold of death back to life every day. Many go on to live decent existences with support and good care.There is huge potential for euthanasia being abused in the current climate of overt discrimination against those living with
    disabilities and “cost containment” of public insurance (Medicare/Medicaid).The two questions that I have for you are “Will you prescribe lethal doses of medicines when patients ask you for them? If not, “Why make it possible for other medical and advanced practice nursing providers to do so?” I will not forsake my nursing vows and will instead attempt to help hopeless people the medical and spiritual support they need to live and die peacefully and naturally. As for Senator Russell Ruderman, you, sir, displayed your callousness towards disabled persons by introducing the appalling anti-service dog legislation, which only further stigmatizes and shames disabled citizens who need and deserve legitimate service animal assistance. I am one of them, in spite of being a practicing APRN. Try investing your energies in getting needed medical care to the poor and disenfranchised residents of Hawaii instead. That will actually be useful. But maybe, no need if all the disabled lose medical insurance. The option of euthanasia and loss of access to medical care due to greedy profiteering will take care of that.

    1. NevahHappen April 1, 2018 3:40 pm

      Green is a slimy politician, no more.

      1. Elizabeth Krsnapriya Bush April 1, 2018 4:55 pm

        I did not say that. I am, however, very surprised that he allowed this bill to go forward without ethical consultation and studies into its ramifications on the poor, disabled and elderly. Legalization of medical euthanasia is far too profound an issue to be blithely signed off by people without extensive medical, nursing or bioethics backgrounds and cautious and deep consideration of highly probable abuse of such loosening of long held homicide/suicide norms. That being said, Dr. Green lost my vote and fairly sizable political influence within the local community recently, when he made (private) contemptuous remarks to me about illegal hiring practices at AMHD DOH. It is one thing to pose as a humanitarian and, another thing altogether, to carry out the difficult and thankless tasks of acting as one; day-in and day-out for decades, at great personal and professional expense. I am grateful that I was given morals and a keen discernment of right and wrong. When my day comes to die, it will be when the Lord wills it so, and in the freedom of knowing I spent my life as a devotee of truth and servant of those most in need. I would not trade that gift for all the power, fame and wealth of a monarch.

        1. NevahHappen April 4, 2018 5:07 pm

          I say it, for the things the clown has babbled about our Bill of Rights.

  5. metalman808 April 1, 2018 9:20 am

    The Democratic state. Population control. I’m sure it’s all about money. Plug me in and keep my ass alive.

  6. Elizabeth Krsnapriya Bush April 1, 2018 9:31 am

    Doctor’s Oath (Geneva Declaration)

    I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:

    I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.

    I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

    I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.

    I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.

    I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

    I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.

    I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.

    I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

    If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

  7. Elizabeth Krsnapriya Bush April 1, 2018 9:34 am

    Nurse’s Oath (Nightingale Pledge)

    I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully.

    I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug.

    I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling.

    With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician, in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

    1. Who Thought April 1, 2018 2:13 pm

      Thank you very much for your standing up for the God-given life we have and against the evil culture of death our Hawaiian lawmakers are promoting!

      1. Elizabeth Krsnapriya Bush April 1, 2018 4:41 pm

        As a nurse, it is my solemn duty to protect lives. More so if they are vulnerable or disabled.

        1. Elizabeth Krsnapriya Bush April 1, 2018 4:41 pm

          American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses
          Provision 1 The nurse practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity,
          worth, and unique attributes of every person.
          Provision 2 The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual,
          family, group, community, or population.
          Provision 3 The nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health, and
          safety of the patient.
          Provision 4 The nurse has authority, accountability and responsibility for nursing
          practice; makes decisions; and takes action consistent with the obligation
          to provide optimal patient care.
          Provision 5 The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the
          responsibility to promote health and safety, preserve wholeness of
          character and integrity, maintain competence, and continue personal and
          professional growth.
          Provision 6 The nurse, through individual and collective effort, establishes, maintains,
          and improves the ethical environment of the work setting and conditions
          of employment that are conducive to safe, quality health care.
          Provision 7 The nurse, in all roles and settings, advances the profession through
          research and scholarly inquiry, professional standards development, and
          the generation of both nursing and health policy.
          Provision 8 The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public to
          protect human rights, promote health diplomacy, and reduce health
          Provision 9 The profession of nursing, collectively through its professional
          organizations, must articulate nursing values, maintain the integrity of the
          profession, and integrate principles of social justice into nursing and
          health policy.
          Source: American Nurses Association. (2015). Code of ethics with interpretative statements. Silver
          Spring, MD: Author

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