Death with dignity bill dies in House Health Committee

The House Health Committee has tabled the controversial Death with Dignity bill, making it unlikely to pass this session.

The bill passed the Senate with a 22-3 vote after two amendments but was unable to pass through the House.

The bill was modeled after Oregon’s death with dignity act, which has been in effect since 1997. The bill would have allowed a mentally competent adult patient with a terminal illness with less than six months to live to voluntarily request and receive self-administered prescription medication to end their life.

However, the Health Committee was concerned about the safeguards in the bill not being enough to protect vulnerable patients.

“We’re concerned about the safeguards, the record-keeping, the physician training to be able to do this prescribing for aid in dying,” House Health Committee chair Della Au Bellati said in the hearing.

While the bill stated that two providers had to confirm the patient’s illness and request, the patient had to make multiple requests, and there had to be two waiting periods, lawmakers did not believe the measure went far enough to protect vulnerable patients.

Also causing concern, the bill does not specify where the patient must take the prescription.

“It literally said you could pick it up from the pharmacy, do it at home, and it didn’t even mandate that someone had to be present and you have to do it in a private place,” Rep. Andria Tupola said at the hearing.

Many organizations testified in support of the bill, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the LGBT Caucus, the Democratic Women’s Caucus, and the Chamber of Commerce for Persons with Disabilities,

The Hawaii Republican Party testified in strong opposition for the bill, saying “this legislation places the government squarely in the middle of a private family matter.” The Hawaii Family Forum and St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii also testified in opposition.

The National Director of Policy & Programs for Compassion and Choices presented a recent Hawaii poll during testimony showing that about 80 percent of Hawaiians currently approve a death with dignity act.

The bill would have made Hawaii the sixth state to pass an aid-in-dying law.

Physician-assisted dying bills have failed to pass in the Hawaiian Legislature for almost two decades. The closest, HB 2487, failed to pass the Senate by only three votes in 2002.