by Steven Ertelt
February 9, 2007
Honolulu, HI (LifeNews.com) — The Hawaii state legislature has again defeated a proposal to legalize assisted suicide in the island state. A state House committee voted 6-1 to defeat the measure, which would allow physicians to administer a lethal drug to terminally ill patients and would make it the second after Oregon to legalize the practice.
The House Health Committee held a hearing on House Bill 675 and it faced overwhelming opposition from pro-life advocates, doctors groups, and the disability community.
Chairman Josh Green said he had received about 300 written testimonies and they ran about 10 to 1 against the bill.
During the hearing, Lt. Gov. James Aiona set the tone for much of the three hour debate.
"I just want to say for the record my opposition, my strong opposition, for this bill," he said, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper.
John McDonnell of the Hawaii Medical Association, said his group favors more pain relief for patients rather than death and a greater focus on the needs of patients.
"Requests for physician-assisted suicide should be a signal to the physician that the patient’s needs are unmet," he said.
Waipahu resident Kevin Inouye spoke for many disabled people in saying he thought the assisted suicide measure should be defeated. He was paralyzed from the neck down after a motorcycle accident and was in a coma for three months afterwards.
"This bill is wrong. It’s taking advantage of the elderly, disabled, sick — kicking a man when he’s down," he said, according to the Honolulu paper.
"If this law was in effect, I would have went for it, and I wouldn’t be here today. You can’t control this bill once you pass it," he added.
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 supported the proposal.
House Judiciary Vice Chairman Blake Oshiro, a Democrat, was the leading sponsor of the measure 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. It is not expected to move forward.
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.
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.