HONOLULU, Hawaii — Lawmakers in Hawaii have passed a controversial bill that would allow the terminally ill to obtain a prescription from their doctor to end their lives.
H.B. 2739, also known as the “Our Care, Our Choice” bill, passed the Senate on Thursday 23-2 after also clearing the House earlier this month 39-12. Gov. David Ige is expected to sign the legislation into law when it reaches his desk.
One of the only two lawmakers to vote against the measure in the Senate was Sen. Breene Harimoto, D-Pearl City, who had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer in 2015, but survived. He was diagnosed with lung cancer just last week.
“My faith in God, prayers and a sense of hope got me through this,” Harimoto declared. “I feel so strongly that we must always have hope and never give up.”
“I was not supposed to be here today,” he said, and thanked God that he was able to be present to vote no.
As previously reported, Harimoto also spoke out last year when a similar bill was being considered, sharing 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,” he stated. “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.”
However, Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Keaau, argued on Thursday that “[r]eligions rightfully carry great respect in our society but must not dictate our laws. If you don’t believe in it, don’t do it.”
“There is separation of Church and State mandated by our constitution. One’s religious views are not relevant to our legislative process,” he also asserted earlier this month.
As previously reported, H.B. 2739 allows for adult terminally ill patients ages 18 and up who have an estimated six months or less to live to request a prescription for a dosage of medication that will end their life.
The patient must make the request orally twice, within a period of no less than 20 days apart, and must also sign a written form that is witnessed by two people. A counselor must additionally attest that the patient is not suffering from depression or other factors that might influence their desire to die.
“I have been fully informed of my diagnosis, prognosis, the nature of medication to be prescribed and potential associated risks, the expected result, the possibility that I may choose not to obtain or not to use the medication, and the feasible alternatives or additional treatments, including comfort care, hospice care, and pain control,” the proposed request form would read.
The form also gives the patient the option not to inform their family of the decision. They may likewise rescind the request should they change their mind about ending their life.
Some of those who opposed the legislation noted that it would require death certificates to state that the cause of death was the person’s disease, not the ingestion of lethal medication.