Some really big news. On April 5, 2018, Hawaii governor David Ige signed the “Our Care, Our Choice Act”, making Hawaii the seventh state with medical aid in dying, joining California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Montana, and Vermont. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2019.
It was a long time coming. The first aid in dying bill was introduced in Hawaii in 1998. But this long process resulted in a tremendous depth of knowledge and support for the law. The majorities were overwhelming — 39 to 12 in the House, and 23 to 2 in the Senate. You don’t get lopsided votes like these unless lots and lots of people are demanding it.
The Hawaii law increases the waiting period to twenty days, from the fourteen days mandated by the time-tested Oregon law, and otherwise is very similar to the Oregon law. It has some nice language to ensure that patients receive counseling and are fully informed about all end-of-life options available to them, including palliative care.
Here’s the extremely moving and informative video of the signing ceremony, featuring Governor David Ige; John Radcliffe, a prominent Hawaiian and cancer sufferer who lobbied hard for the bill; and
legislative champions for the bill, Senator Rosalyn Baker and Representative Della Au Belatti. It’s sixteen minutes and really worth watching.
Here are links to news coverage: when committees of the Hawaii House passed the bill on February
28; when the Hawaii House passed the bill on March 6; when the Hawaii Senate passed the bill on March 29; and when Governor Ige signed the bill on April 5. Here’s a link to an interview with activist John Radcliffe. Here are links to the Hawaii legislature’s page on the law, together with its full text; to the website of the Hawaii Death With Dignity Society; and to the full story of the Hawaii law at the Death With Dignity National Center.
Some fascinating quotes:
— “This is the defining civil rights issue of our time. We listened to the voices of the people.” — Representative John Mizuno, chair of the House Health & Human Services Committee
— “It is time for mentally competent, terminally ill Hawaii residents who are suffering to make their own end of life choices with dignity, grace and peace.” — Governor David Ige, in his signing statement
— “The time was right for Hawaii to adopt this law. The safeguards Hawaii state legislators have enacted will ensure that patients are in control of this process and make their own decisions at
every step of the way — as is their right.” — Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Death With Dignity National Center
— “Each time a state authorizes medical aid in dying, this movement gets stronger. Each time, we come a little closer to erasing the stigma around this compassionate option. And each time, we come
closer to giving every American the end-of-life options they deserve.” — Kim Callinan, CEO of Compassion & Choices