HONOLULU, Hawaii – Legislators in Hawaii have passed a controversial bill that would allow the terminally ill to receive a prescription from their doctor to end their lives.
H.B. 2739, also known as the "Our Concern, Our Choice" bill, also passed the House on Thursday 23-2 after clearing the house earlier this month 39-12. It is expected that Governor David Ige will sign the laws when he reaches his desk.
One of the only two legislators who voted against the measure in the Senate was Senator Breene Harimoto, of D-Pearl City, who had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer in 2015, but survived. Only last week he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
"My faith in God, prayer and a sense of hope have made me," Harimoto said. "I feel so strong that we always have hope and never have to give up."
"I should not be here today," he said thanking God that he could be present to vote no.  As previously reported, Harimoto spoke last year when a similar bill was considered. He said that given the difficult diagnosis, it would have been too easy to give up and die, but death was not the answer. He needed hope and help. Harimoto said help in dying bills has a "misplaced sense of compassion".
"When I think back to this experience, I wonder what anyone who lives for six months or less would do with these killings," he explained. "It would be too easy and tempting to grab the pills in a moment of weakness and desperation to end it all, and I'm glad I did not have those pills if I suffered so much or if I was not here today."
Senator Russell Ruderman, D-Keaau, argued, however, on Thursday that "[r] eligions rightfully have great respect in our society, but do not dictate our laws, if you do not believe in it, do not do it."  "There is a separation of church and state required by our constitution, and our own religious beliefs are not relevant to our legislative process," he said earlier this month.
As previously reported, H.B. 2739 allows adult patients in the terminal stage of 18 years and older who have a life of up to six months or less to apply for a prescription for a drug dose that will end their lives.
The patient must submit the application twice orally within a period of not less than 20 days apart, and must also sign a written form attested by two persons. An adviser must also certify that the patient is not suffering from depression or other factors that could affect their desire to die.
"I have been fully informed about my diagnosis, prognosis, the type of medications to be prescribed and the risks involved, the expected outcome, the possibility that I may or may not use the drug, and the feasible alternatives or additional Treatments, including comfort care, hospice care and pain control, "would be the proposed application form.  The form also gives the patient the opportunity not to inform his family about the decision. They may also withdraw the request should they change their mind about ending their life.
Read the bill here in full.
Some of the opponents of the legislation stated that it would require death certificates to explain the cause of death was the human disease, not the use of lethal drugs.