HONOLULU — A bill that would have permitted physician-assisted suicide in Hawaii has been unanimously deferred by a House committee following hours of what has been described as “intense debate.”
S.B. 1129, also known as the “Medical Aid in Dying” bill, initially passed the Senate on March 7, with only three votes of opposition. But the bill did not see as much support once it advanced to the House Health Committee on Thursday.
The Committee, led by Rep. Della Au Bellati, D-Honolulu, expressed concern about the wording of the legislation and said that it might not contain enough safeguards against abuse.
“Our job is to consider a full range of policy options and consequences, and base our decisions on data and evidence. We must balance the right to choose with protecting those who are most vulnerable,” Belatti wrote. “There must be a broader discussion about safeguards and oversight to this ‘aid in dying’ proposal.”
Earlier this month, Sen. Breene Harimoto, who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two years ago, shared his emotional story of survival in urging lawmakers to vote against the bill.
“I broke down and cried, thinking that I would die soon,” he recalled of the diagnosis, bringing tears to the eyes of some of those present. “I’m sure that if I chose not to suffer through surgeries, chemo and radiation, I would have been given just a few months to live.”
“But after much prayer, my wife and I decided to have faith. I chose to fight for my life with every ounce of energy I had,” Harimoto explained, noting that his cancer is now in remission.
He shared that it would have been too easy to give up and die in the face of the difficult diagnosis, but death was not the answer. He needed hope and help. Harimoto said aid in dying bills have a “misplaced sense of compassion.”
“Thinking back on this experience, I wonder what anyone who is given six months or less to live would do with those death pills,” Harimoto said. “It would be too easy and tempting in a moment of weakness and despair to reach for the pills to end it all. I’m glad I didn’t have those pills when I was suffering so much or I wouldn’t be here today.”
Attorney Margaret Dore of the organization Choice Is an Illusion made similar remarks in a statement.
“Doctors can be wrong about life expectancy, sometimes way wrong,” she said. “This is due to mistakes and the fact that predicting life expectancy is not an exact science. A few years ago, I was met at the airport by a man who at age 18 or 19 had been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and given three to five years to live, at which time he would die by paralysis. His diagnosis had been confirmed by the Mayo Clinic. When he met me at the airport, he was 74 years old. The disease progression had stopped on its own.”
The Kupuna and LGBT Caucuses of the Democratic Party, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and the group Compassion and Choice, had submitted testimony backing the measure.
Psalm 68:20 reads, “He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death.”