Medical aid in dying bill moves forward in the legislature

On Wednesday, Hawaii’s Medical Aid in Dying Bill passed out of both the House Health and Human Services (HHS) committee and the House Judiciary Committee. With this step forward, the bill will be heard before the entire House for the first time since 2002.

The two committees held a joint hearing on Tuesday for the bill where dozens of supporters and opponents testified for five hours. Among those offering support for the bill where the Offices of the Governor and the Attorney General, Hawai’i’s Psychological Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai’i.

Kate Brady, a concerned citizen who has acted as caretaker for three of her loved ones, provided testimony, writing,

“The most important thing I learned as a caregiver is that everyone has the personal autonomy to say ‘No more’. We all need to respect that individual choice.”

The bill also received support from Ron Hart, a representative from Hawaii Citizens for End of Life Choices.

“People at the end of their lives have both an inherent human right, as well as an individual civil right, to choose for themselves the kinds of care and treatment they wish to receive, as well as the kinds they do not. This includes the right to choose to end pain and suffering by hastening death with assistance from specially trained medical personnel.”

Janet Grace, Executive Director of the Hawaii Life Alliance, submitted testimony in strong opposition to the bill writing,

“We believe that legitimizing these practices in society inevitably leads to the cheapening of a human life and callousness toward weaker members of society, particularly those unable to speak for themselves.”

The bill ultimately passed out of the HHS committee by a vote of 4-1, with Representative Tupola casting the lone vote against the bill. In the Judiciary committee, the bill passed on a 7-1 vote with Representative McDermott voting in opposition.

Last year, the Senate passed a similar bill, but it ultimately stalled in the House Health Committee.

The full House is expected to vote on the bill on Tuesday. If the bill is eventually signed into law, Hawaii would join just five other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing aid in dying legislation.