Hawaii House Committee Will Consider Bill to Allow Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 1, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Hawaii House Committee Will Consider Bill to Allow Assisted Suicide

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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
February 1
, 2007

Honolulu, HI (LifeNews.com) — The Hawaii state legislature is once again tackling the issue of assisted suicide and a state House committee will consider a bill soon that would make the state just the second to legalize the practice. Only Oregon has legalized assisted suicide and measures in several states, including Hawaii, have failed to add others to the list.

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.

Then in 2005, the state House Health Committee quickly voted down a bill to legalize assisted suicide.

That committee will hold another hearing in the next 10 days on a measure sponsored by its chairman, Democratic state Rep. Josh Green. He told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper that he met with party leaders and got his bill assigned to his committee.

"I’m going to hear it in the next 10 days because people deserve to have a hearing on things they’re passionate about," Green said. "It’s an emotional issue and it’s a critical issue because we have to be safe with peoples’ lives."

House Judiciary Vice Chairman Blake Oshiro, a Democrat, is a leading co-sponsor along with twelve other Democrats and two Republicans.

Meanwhile, Senate President Colleen Hanabusa introduced a companion bill (SB 1995) in the Senate, though no hearing has been scheduled on it.

Asked about the prospects of the bill, Green told the newspaper, "It’s not a foregone conclusion whether it will pass or fail."

Pro-life groups again said they would strongly oppose the bill and they will be joined by medical groups and disability rights organizations.

Kelly Rosati, executive director of the Hawaii Family Forum, told the Star-Bulletin, "I think it’s a proposal that’s opposed by pretty much all of Hawaii’s medical community, the disability rights community as well as by many in the faith community."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii says it supports the proposal.

During the last debate, 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."