After two decades of sometimes divisive discussion on this emotional topic, the Legislature and governor have concluded that it is appropriate to give patients the ability to choose their own medical care at the end of life, and to also ensure that safeguards are in place to prevent any possible abuse of the process.
Governor David Ige signed into law Act 002, formerly House Bill 2739, “Our Care, Our Choice Act” on April 5, 2018. This law will allow terminally ill Hawai‘i residents to request life ending medication beginning January 1, 2019. Hawai‘i joins just six other states that allow life ending measures for those who seek to die peacefully in the face of a terminal disease. “It is time for terminally ill, mentally competent Hawai‘i residents who are suffering to make their own end-of-life choices with dignity, grace and peace,” says Governor Ige.
“On behalf of the Senate, I’m just delighted that we’re here and at this point,” said Senator Rosalyn Baker, chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health, during the bill signing ceremony.
Senator Baker recognized colleagues Senator Karl Rhoads for helping craft the bill and Senator Brian Taniguchi for passing the bill out of the Senate Judiciary committee. She also thanked the community for providing thought-provoking, heartfelt testimony during the hearings over the years. “I think most of us, at least all of us in this room, believe that the ultimate choice about how one ends one’s life is very important and I think it’s important for a state like ours to make that choice available. It’s the compassionate thing to do,” said Sen. Baker.
Senate Bill 1129 was the precursor to enabling the long standing discussion of “death with dignity” that resulted in the passage of House Bill 2739 by both houses of the legislator. There was broad support for HB2739 within the Senate, which had advanced Senate Bill 1129 during the 2017 Legislative Session. SB1129 had similar safeguards as the House bill, but it was deferred by a House committee and never put to a House floor vote last session.
In passing the measure this year, Senate President Kouchi acknowledged Senator Baker and Senator Gil Keith-Agaran, then-Chair of the Committee on Judiciary, for their efforts made last year to “put forward a public document that we could debate and discuss in order to get to the bill that we would be comfortable upon voting.” President Kouchi also thanked the public for being “engaged with the Senate every step of the way on this issue.”