Friday, March 5, 2004

‘Suicide’ bill
goes to full House

The measure would let isle
physicians help terminally ill
patients end their lives

Two years after a bill authorizing physician-assisted suicides fell two votes short, the state House will again take up the measure.

Legislature 2004
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State Legislature: Bills
& Hawaii Revised Statutes

A House panel voted 10-5 yesterday to legalize physician-assisted suicides and send the measure on to the full House.

The proposal (House Bill 862) allows terminally ill, competent adults to get a lethal dose of medication to end their lives. The vote by the House Judiciary Committee came after more than four hours of testimony.

Rep. Robert Herkes (D, Mountain View-Kainaliu) said he voted against the bill because he fears the right to die will become a duty to die as terminally ill patients and their families consider the financial cost of extended health care.

Rep. Marilyn Lee (D, Mililani-Mililani Mauka) voted in favor of the bill, with reservations. Lee, who has been a nurse for 35 years, said pain and suffering should no longer be a reason for terminally ill patients to consider ending their lives because of advances in pain management.

"Really, no one should be in constant pain in today's world," she said.

Rep. Ezra Kanoho (D, Wailua-Koloa) had the simplest explanation for his vote:

"I'm voting for it because if the time comes for me, I would like to have this option at my disposal."

If the bill wins approval from the rest of the House, it will move on to the Senate.

Senate Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Chairman Colleen Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua) introduced a similar bill last year, but it failed to get a hearing. She said she would like to conduct a hearing on the new bill.

"I'm not sure if it has support in the Senate," she said.

Eleanor "Andi" van der Voort has been lobbying for physician-assisted suicide for at least a decade. She testified in favor of the bill at yesterday's hearing and hopes to testify on the bill in the Senate.

"It's going to be a battle in the Senate," she said.

Van der Voort is president of End of Life Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society, and has been a nurse for 48 years.

Two years ago, lawmakers in the state House approved a physician-assisted suicide bill supported by then-Gov. Ben Cayetano. The measure fell two votes short in the Senate.

Gov. Linda Lingle has said she does not support physician-assisted suicides.

Oregon is the only state to legalize physician-assisted suicides.


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