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Hawaii legalizes assisted suicide

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HONOLULU, April 6, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – On Thursday, the governor of Hawaii signed legislation making it the sixth state to allow doctor-assisted suicide.

To the delight of assisted suicide activists, Democratic Gov. David Ige signed HB 2739 into law, saying it’s “time for terminally ill, mentally competent Hawaii residents who are suffering to make their own end-of-life choices with dignity, grace and peace.”

Effective January 1, 2019, Hawaii will be the sixth state to fully allow the practice. California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington state, and the District of Columbia legalized assisted suicide legislatively or via voter initiatives. In Montana, the state Supreme Court ruled that state law did not expressly prohibit it.

Ige claimed that the legislation was crafted to ensure patients could not kill themselves without thinking it through, and to prevent physicians from forcing the decision on a patient.

The Hawaii law requires two separate healthcare providers to confirm the patient’s voluntary request for death, diagnosis, prognosis, and medical competence. It also requires the patient to make two oral requests separated by a 20-day waiting period. Finally, the patient must sign a written request before two witnesses, one of whom must be a non-relative. Coercing an assisted suicide request is a felony under the new law.

Pro-life advocates say such measures do not do enough to protect vulnerable patients.  

State Sen. Mike Gabbard, a Democrat who voted against the bill, called attention to the fact that it requires death certificates to list patients’ cause of death as their underlying terminal illness rather than the life-ending drugs they took.

Scott Foster of the pro-assisted suicide Death with Dignity Society said that provision was meant to prevent conflicts with insurance companies over drug and treatment coverage. But Gabbard called it “ridiculous that we’re going to falsify the cause of death.”

“For 20 years, medical aid in dying was the missing piece” of former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano’s 1998 Blue Ribbon Panel on Living and Dying with Dignity, said Barbara Coombs Lee, president of the pro-assisted suicide group Compassion & Choices. “Now comfort care and patient autonomy will truly flourish.”

But pro-lifers say the results will be anything but humane.

“I can't imagine a law that could do more to undermine the unique beauty of the culture of Hawaii than physician-assisted suicide,” Jason Jones, pro-life film producer and founder of the Catholic organization Serviam, told LifeSiteNews. Jones lives in Hawaii.

“Outside money continues to buy off our politicians to use our state as a laboratory for the most radical leftist policy,” he said. “Hawaii is the home of Saint Damien and [Saint Marianne Cope], the great saints of solidarity with the suffering.”

Jones added that this law’s passage was further evidence of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s thesis in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.

“There is no longer a home for Catholics in the Democrat party,” said Jones, lamenting that “states like Hawaii are being destroyed by the Democrat party.”

CEO and President of Americans United for Life (AUL) Catherine Glenn Foster said her group was “extremely disappointed” by Ige’s decision to sign the “dangerous” and “fatally flawed” legislation. It shared a letter to Hawaii Senate President Ronald Kouchi by AUL general counsel Steven Aden arguing that assisted suicide runs counter to Hawaii’s cultural tradition of “respect and reverence with which we treat the elderly and infirm.”

He cited evidence that despite the alleged origins of assisted suicide as a voluntary last resort for extreme cases, similar laws in Belgium and the Netherlands have led to involuntary euthanasia. These laws now also extend to newborns, children, people with dementia, and people without terminal diagnoses. In many cases, the suggestion to end one’s life originates with the physician rather than the patient.

In 2015, the VUmc Free University in Amsterdam released a survey finding that 52 percent of Dutch physicians who specialize in euthanasia said they would approve euthanasia in cases where a dementia patient had requested it in an advance directive.

Aden also argued that patients would be better served by treating other causes of the misery motivating them to want to end their lives.

“Medical studies have repeatedly demonstrated that when [emotional distress, mental distress, and concerns over adequate palliative care] are addressed, hope is restored to patients and the demand for assisted suicide drops dramatically,” he wrote. “Physician-assisted suicide is a failure of patient care and compassion, nothing less.”

Polls show that 73 percent of the American public and 63 percent of Hawaii voters support doctors helping patients kill themselves. The American Medical Association officially opposes the practice, but some state chapters including Hawaii's are neutral, and in recent years pro-euthanasia activists have expressed optimism that the national organization will eventually reverse its position.

This article has been updated.

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