Hawaii "Death With Dignity" Bill Goes Down;
More Oregonians Used Law Last Year
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 10, 2004
HONOLULU, HAWAII & SALEM OREGON--For the second time in three months, a state physician-assisted suicide measure has been held up in committee and not allowed to come to a full legislative vote.
Democrats in Hawaii's House of Representatives sent House Bill 862 back to its Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, ending any possibility for it to be considered by the Senate and governor during the current session.
"People were a little uncomfortable about taking this up in an election year," said House Judiciary Vice Chairman Blake Oshiro, who noted that House members were divided on the issue and Democrats believed it would be better bring it up later.
The "death with dignity" bill faced heavy opposition in the state Senate. Governor Linda Lingle had also spoken out against physician-assisted suicide, calling it a "slippery slope" that could lead to euthanasia.
HB 262 would have allowed "mentally competent", terminally-ill patients to receive a lethal dose of medication for ending their own lives. Doctors would not have been allowed to administer the lethal dose, but would have determined the patients' competency. Under the proposed law, patients would have had to make both an oral and a written request to their physicians and would have to ask again at least 15 days after their initial oral request.
Vermont lawmakers shelved a similar measure in the first week of January, when state senators said they would not support it.
In a related note, a study by Oregon's Department of Human Services on that state's physician-assisted suicide law found that last year 42 Oregonians used the law by taking a lethal dose of drugs after consulting doctors. That reflects an increase from 38 people in the year 2002.
Disability rights groups have opposed attempts to legalize physician-assisted suicide because of the risk to people with certain disabilities whose lives are often considered 'not worth living', especially in a culture that values productivity, mobility, and independence. People with severe disabilities are also often made to believe that they are a burden upon others, and that dying would be the 'loving thing to do'.
"Number of Oregonians choosing assisted suicide up slightly" (Associated Press)
"Sixth Annual Report on Oregon's Death with Dignity Act March 10, 2004" (Oregon Department of Human Services)