by Steven Ertelt
February 8, 2005
Honolulu, HI (LifeNews.com) — Members of the Hawaii legislature wasted little time this legislative session in sounding the death knell for a bill that would have legalized the grisly practice of assisted suicide. The vote comes after a similar bill nearly made it to the governor three years ago.
The state House Health Committee held a hearing Friday that brought out activists on both sides of the euthanasia issue. After more than nine hours of testimony for and against the bill, members of the committee voted against it.
House Bill 1454 would have allowed doctors to prescribe drugs for patients to use to kill themselves.
The members all had different reasons for voting against the bill, according to a report in the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper.
Committee chairman Dennis Arakaki voted against it because there was no consensus for the bill, Rep. Alex Sonson said the bill didn’t have enough safeguards, Rep. Josh Green opposed it because it wasn’t worded correctly.
"Someone mentioned that we should have the courage to pass this bill," said Rep. Lynn Finnegan. "I think that everyone who came here had the courage to express their opinions. I am against this. I am not hiding anything. And I will continue to be against this."
Arakaki said he expected another stab at the bill in future sessions.
"I don’t think it’s going to go away," he told the Honolulu Star Bulletin. "At this point, the sentiment is against it."
Those speaking against the bill said that legalizing assisted suicide, allowed elsewhere only in the state of Oregon, would begin a slippery slope that would lead to euthanasia and put unnecessary pressure on disabled and terminally ill patients.
Several Oregon doctors flew to Honolulu specifically to oppose the measure.
Dr. William Petty, an oncologist, said patients facing death "are potential victims of subtle and not-so-subtle coercion."
"Care and treatment can be expensive," he added. "Manipulation of patients is a real problem when physician-assisted suicide becomes an option."
Michael Tada, who suffers from cerebral palsy, had a difficult time sharing his views against the bill.
Through an independent living aide, Tada said he thought the bill would legitimatize suicide and said he might not be alive now if allowed a doctor’s help to end his life.
In addition to pro-life groups, the Hawaii Medical Association opposed the bill and Dr. Leonard Howard, past president of the group, said the bill "offers only one idea — death."
In 2002, a similar bill, backed by then-governor Ben Cayetano (D), passed the House 30-20, but it was defeated in the Senate by only 3 votes.