The Hawaii State Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health recommended passage of SB-1129, but after heated debate the state's House Health Committee “deferred” it for changes and amendments.
Patterned after Oregon’s assisted-suicide law, the Medical Aid in Dying Act would transform killing a patient into a legal medical treatment for terminal illness.
SB-1129 expands its prototype Oregon law in many ways, including allowing certain nurses, not just licensed physicians, to both diagnose a patient's terminal illness and to prescribe the lethal drugs to kill him or her.
Other areas of pro-life concern include:
Patients who do not want to die may choose to be euthanized in order to no longer “burden” their family. Oregon's own records show nearly 50 percent of assisted suicides chose to be killed to avoid burdening their family, friends or caregivers.
Contrary to the report issued by the State Senate Committee, the bill applies not just to patients at the end of life. People with years or decades to live may qualify for assisted suicide.
Eligibility for assisted suicide is based on the patient's desire to die after a terminal diagnosis. But “terminal diagnosis” is defined in the bill as probable death within six months of non-treatment. In other words, controllable medical conditions such as diabetes, types of leukemia, conditions needing dialysis, disabilities requiring a ventilator, etc., would qualify for euthanasia.
Family members, especially heirs, may pressure patients who do not want to die to choose assisted suicide. The bill bans “coercion” but “does not prohibit someone from suggesting, advising, pressuring, or encouraging a patient to request prescribed suicide.”
The bill does not require self-administration of the poisonous drugs, raising the possibility of involuntary action.
A witness testifying to the patient's desire to die and authorizing his/her “mercy” killing may legally be “an heir who will financially benefit from the patient's death.”
The bill does not require a doctor present when the deadly dose is administered. In fact, there is no oversight. If the patient changed his or her mind, or even struggled against receiving the fatal injection, no one would know.
The lethal drugs are water soluble, so they could be given to a restrained or a sleeping person without consent.
The death certificate must “list the underlying terminal disease as the cause of death,” and not the lethal drugs that actually killed the patient. The “manner” of death must be listed as “natural.” The significance of this is that any questioning or possible criminal investigation is thwarted before it even begins, as a “natural” death by “disease” is unprosecutable.
Later questioning or inquiry is thwarted, too. The Department of Health's statistical record of legal compliance “shall not be a public record and may not be made available for inspection by the public,” and one year after the records are made “all source documentation is destroyed.”
There continues to be political pressure to expand “eligibility.” Oregon has proposed bills that lengthen diagnoses to one year. New Hampshire has twice proposed making diseases eligible for assisted suicide if they merely may cause “premature death.”
Besides, many times diagnoses of terminal illness are simply wrong. In 2000, Oregonian Jeanette Hall was given a terminal diagnosis of six months to live (based on non-treatment). She decided to be euthanized, but her doctor convinced her to be treated. Last year, she wrote, “This July, it will be 16 years since my diagnosis. If my doctor had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead.”
Furthermore, predictions of life expectancy are not an exact science but fallible educated guesses. John Norton was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in the 1950s and told he had 3-5 painful years to live. Instead, the disease stopped progressing completely on its own. In 2012, Norton wrote, “If assisted suicide or euthanasia had been available to me in the 1950s, I would have missed the bulk of my life and my life yet to come.”
Attorney Margaret Dore of Choice is an Illusion testified against the bill. “The act will encourage people with years or decades to live to throw away their lives,” she predicted.
“The act is a recipe for elder abuse, especially for (heirs) in the middle class and above,” Dore stated. “The act creates the perfect crime in which the death is allowed to occur in private, without oversight, and the death certificate gives perpetrators a 'Stay Out of Jail Free' card.”
Dore also criticized the bill's lack of oversight, which she described as “prevent(ing) everyone, including law enforcement, from accessing information.” She said patient identity “is not recorded in any manner” and “all source documentation is destroyed” after one year.
Under the proposed bill, Dore asked, “Will (the legislature) have access to the information needed to evaluate the situation, or will people be killed by their heirs and other perpetrators in a black hole of wishful thinking?”