In Hawaii, attempts to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide, using a model based on Oregon’s law, have taken place for years. Those, along with proposals in more than 20 other states failed. In 2009, three additional bills were introduced in Hawaii but all failed. Assisted-suicide advocates vowed to continue introducing legislation until they succeed, no matter how long it takes.
In January 2011, three new bills to permit doctor-prescribed death were introduced.
Current law regarding assisted suicide
A person commits the offense of manslaughter if the person intentionally causes another person to commit assisted suicide. [Haw. Rev. Stat. § 707-702 (1) (b)]
2013 Pending Legislation
HB 606 was styled after Oregon’s doctor-prescribed suicide law. However, to qualify for assisted suicide under the measure, the patient must be at least 50 years of age.
2009 and 2011 Bills
In 2011, Hawaii had three bills to permit doctor-prescribed death under consideration in the legislature – SB 803, its companion bill HB 1383, as well as HB 1165. The bills, as introduced, would have permitted both assisted suicide and euthanasia.
On 2/7/11, SB 803 was defeated in the Senate Health Care committee.
In 2009, three bills were under consideration in the legislature – HB 587, HB 806 and SB 1159 – all titled “Death with Dignity.” The bills were virtually identical and, as introduced, would permit both assisted suicide and euthanasia. On Feb. 18, 2009, House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu announced that the House of Representatives would not hold hearings that year on an assisted-suicide bill.
Analysis of 2009 bill (HB 806) View HTML Version; View as PDF
“Hawaii Medical Association Opposes Physician-Assisted Suicide”
(Honolulu Civil Beat — December 10, 2012)
The words of ethicist Hans Jonas summarize well the consequences of embarking upon the dangerous path of legalized physician-assisted suicide: “The role of taker of life must never be assigned to the physician; in any case, the law must never permit him to perform it, for this would jeopardize and perhaps destroy the physician’s role in society. A patient must never have to suspect that his physician might become his executioner.”
“‘Aid in Dying’ supporters vow to help Hawaii’s terminally ill”
(KITV — November 12, 2012)
Assisted Suicide, Aid-in-Dying, whatever you choose to call it, the discussion has been a hot topic nationwide, and now what’s happening in our state has advocates opening the doors….[The president of Compassion and Choices] said in the past year, 31 people have inquired about aid-in-dying, seven qualified to receive medication, and four were actually prescribed it, but she said all four died of natural causes before taking that prescription.
“New Aid-In-Dying Service Getting Inquiries”
(Honolulu Civil Beat — October 5, 2012)
Compassion & Choices Hawaii, a nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life, received 31 local inquiries in its first year of service. The figure comes from an annual report released by the Physician Advisory Council for Aid in Dying or PACAID, a group of local doctors that collaborates with Compassion & Choices Hawaii and can prescribe life-ending medication if necessary.
“5 Hawaii doctors offer assisted suicide to terminally ill patients”
(American Medical News — April 17, 2012)
A group of Hawaii physicians is offering to write lethal prescriptions for terminally ill patients in a bid to test whether doctor-assisted suicide is allowed under state law. “I’m retired.” said Dr. Robert “Nate” Nathanson. “I think the worst that would happen is that they’d take my license away. I don’t think I’m going to put in any jail time…My livelihood doesn’t depend on it, so I can be very brave.”
“Assisted suicide still a no-go-in Aloha State”
(One News Now — December 29, 2011)
In spite of proponents’ unique approach to legalize it, Hawaii’s ban on doctor-assisted suicide remains in place. Supporters of assisted suicide tried to use a 1909 law that permits the use of remedies for conditions that were, at the time, untreatable by traditional medical methods. The attempt to interpret the law to permit doctors to prescribe drugs for suicide was rebuffed in an opinion by Hawaii’s current attorney general.
“Native Hawaiians will fight against Assisted Suicide”
(Hawaii Free Press — December 10, 2011)
Panel refutes claims that 1909 law permits assisted suicide, noting that assisted-suicide activists have been trying to legalize the practice for years.
“Hawaii Physicians Rally Against Assisted Suicide”
(Hawaii Free Press — December 2, 2011)
The Senate Health Committee heard a physician-assisted suicide (PAS) bill at the 2011 session and voted not to send the bill any further. That should have ended consideration of the issue for 2012 also, but indications are that advocates of PAS may engage in unusual maneuvering to have PAS heard again in the 2012 session.
“Hawaii Legislature scuttles assisted suicide” ( CNBC – - February 8, 2011 )
A Hawaii legislative panel on Monday unanimously voted down a bill that would have legalized physician-assisted suicide. Kevin Inouye who spoke in opposition to the bill from his wheelchair wore a yellow sticker saying, “No doctor prescribed death.”
“Assisted suicide bill stalls”
( Star Advertiser – - February 8, 2011 )
After citing numerous examples of loved ones who outlived a doctor’s terminal diagnosis or of their own victory over suicidal depression, opponents of a proposal to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Hawaii applauded as a Senate committee defeated the measure last night.
“Hawaii – Robert Yagi Dead, and Assisted Suicide Advocates Continue to Exploit the Tragedy”
( Not Dead Yet News Commentary – December 14, 2009 )
71-year-old Robert Yagi committed suicide after attempting to kill his wife with a flare gun loaded with a shotgun shell. According to assisted-suicide advocate Andi Van der Voort, the law should be changed to permit assisted suicide. “I think it’s awful that someone has to shoot you,” she said.
Comment: Apparently, Van der Voort (who was formerly president of the Hawaii Hemlock Society and now serves on the board of the Final Exit Network) believes that giving doctors the power to prescribe poison is the only way to prevent husbands from killing their wives.
“Assisted-suicide bill in death throes: Stiff opposition seems likely to keep the legislation from surviving the session.” (Hawaii Star-Bulletin 2/8/07)
“Hearing passionate on death with dignity.” (Honolulu Advertiser 2/8/07)
Doctor-assisted suicide bill fades at Legislature (Hawaii Star-Bulletin) 2/6/05
Proposal seeks the right to death” (Honolulu Star Bulletin, 3/8/04)
“Suicide bill goes to full house” (Honolulu Star Bulletin, 3/5/04)
“Teach options to assisted suicide instead” by Herbert Hendin and Kathleen Foley (Honolulu Advertiser, 2/9/03)
Hawaii: Assisted suicide bill dies in Senate (Update, Vol. 16, No. 1, 2002).
Hawaiian Senate resurrects then narrowly defeats assisted suicide bill (Update, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2002).