Hawaii Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide Clears First Hurdle

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 9, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Hawaii Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide Clears First Hurdle

by Paul Nowak
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
March 9, 2004

Honolulu, HI (LifeNews.com) — Two years ago, Hawaii almost became the next state to legalize assisted suicide. Once again, the state is dangerously close to doing so.

The bill to legalize the grisly practice passed in the House Judiciary Committee last week, would allow a patients to obtain a lethal dose of medication from a doctor for the purpose ending their life. Mercy killing, lethal injections, and active euthanasia are still prohibited. If a patient’s primary doctor will not prescribe the drugs, they are allowed to get another doctor to write the prescription.

The Judiciary Committee approved the measure by a 10-5 vote, after amending it to require that only residents of the state can take advantage of the suicide measure.

In 2002, a similar bill passed the House 30-20, but it was defeated in the Senate by only 3 votes. Sixteen house seats and seven Senate seats have changed hands — and four of the Senators who opposed the so-called Death with Dignity Act are no longer present.

"I believe those seven [new] members would probably be split on it as well," said Senate President Robert Bunda (D – Kaena-Wahiawa-Pupukea). "It depends. It depends on the debate as well. This is a very emotional issue."

Pro-life advocates have a struggle before them, as they try to prevent a “slippery slope” leading to the view of the elderly as burdens.

"We will begin to change the way we look at kupuna [elders]," said Nancy Pace of Hawaii Family Forum. "They will begin to be viewed as dead — as disposable."

Gov. Linda Lingle has said that she opposes the measure, as she agrees it could lead to more drastic measures against the elderly.

Pro-life groups hope Lingle will veto the bill, if passed by the state legislature. They say the state should instead focus on treating patient pain.

"I oppose physician-assisted suicide because we should treat pain and suffering, not avoid it by killing the sufferer," testified Jackie Mishler, a registered nurse at the Judiciary Committee hearings. "That cheap and dirty fix will ultimately undermine real compassion, take away funding and interest in pain management, and create a host of new victims among the disabled, the underserved, and those who can’t speak for themselves.

Former president of the Hawaii Medical Association, Dr. Leonard Howard, spoke for the Association against assisted suicide, as he said it is fundamentally inconsistent with a doctor’s role as a healer.

The measure is endorsed by American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, Compassion in Dying of Hawaii, Death with Dignity Hawaii Coalition, Hawaii Physicians for Assisted Dying, Interfaith Alliance and Planned Parenthood of Hawaii.

Organizations that have voiced opposition to the bill include: The American Cancer Society, American Center for Law and Justice of Hawaii, Roman Catholic Church in the State of Hawaii, Hawaii Family Forum, Hawaii Medical Association, Healthcare Association of Hawaii and Hospice Hawaii.

In January 2003, the Hawaii Medical Association and the pro-life Hawaii Family Forum spent about $40,000 on an ad campaign to oppose the idea of assisted suicide.

"Legalization of physician-assisted suicide is the wrong answer," said Kenneth Zeri, president and chief professional officer of Hospice Hawaii. "The answer is, we relieve the suffering. We don’t kill the sufferer."

ACTION: Contact your state Representative regarding the bill to legalize assisted suicide and make your views known. You can reach any state Rep. by going to

Related web sites:
Hawaii State Legislature – https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov