Monday, October 24, 2011

Assisted Suicide in not legal in Hawaii.

An article written by Jennifer Popik, J.D. who is a lawyer with the Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics confirms that assisted suicide is not legal in Hawaii. Popik wrote:

Jennifer Popik
Earlier this month, Hawaii Death With Dignity, a group which promotes doctor-prescribed death, held a meeting at their state capital announcing Hawaii was the 4th state to legalize assisted suicide. This is flat-out incorrect on several grounds.

First, assisted suicide has been specifically legalized in only two states – Oregon and Washington. In addition, due to a 2010 court decision in Montana, a physician there who aided in a suicide would, at a criminal or civil trial, be allowed to try to claim that the victim consented.  

Second, despite well over one hundred legislative efforts, pro-assisted suicide forces have yet to be successful in any state legislature. They have come close to victory many times, even in Hawaii, but have thus far only been successful using two ballot initiative campaigns. So why would Hawaii Death With Dignity announce the state had suddenly legalized doctor prescribed death?

Surely the group was not referring to its huge loss in 2011. A Hawaii legislative panel unanimously voted down a bill that would have legalized physician-assisted following 4½ hours of testimony overwhelmingly against the proposal – mainly from disability rights advocates. Further, if physician assisted suicide is “already legal” in Hawaii, why have suicide law proponents been trying to pass this kind of legislation in the state for well over a decade? There was no legislative victory; there was no ballot initiative. What they relied on was an over 100 -year-old arcane statute dealing with pain relief options.

A provision of the Hawaii Revised Statute [§ 453-1] states that “When a duly licensed physician or osteopathic physician pronounces a person affected with any disease hopeless and beyond recovery and gives a written certificate to that effect to the person affected or the person’s attendant nothing herein shall forbid any person from giving or furnishing any remedial agent or measure when so requested by or on behalf of the affected person.” Originally added in 1909, the provision had the purpose of allowing dying patients the option of obtaining therapy that had not yet been approved by the government.

Even if one were somehow able to stretch one’s imagination to conclude that a statute aimed at helping people get alternative pain therapy intended that the patient die, there is a simpler answer. Under Hawaii’s very active, and very real manslaughter statute [§ 707-702], a person is guilty of manslaughter if the “person intentionally causes another person to commit suicide.”

So why does Hawaii Death With Dignity rely on the 1909 provision? This sort of approach gives the pro-doctor prescribed death people what they are really after. The whole time that the national parent organization, Compassion and Choices, goes state-by-state attempting to lobby for assisted suicide, its typical approach is to promote the Oregon style law, one that contains so-called “safeguards.” These include mainly superficial requirements, including having a diagnosed terminal illness, making two separate requests, residency, reporting, and giving some lip service to competency.

How can the Death With Dignity promoters have it both ways? If this 1909 statute were really the basis for assisted suicide, then there would be none of the safeguards they claim to embrace. This echoes the behavior on display in Montana.

After one of the lower courts rendered a pro-assisted suicide decision that gave no guidance as to safeguards, Kathryn Tucker, the legal director for Compassion and Choices said lawmakers shouldn’t feel the need to pass any legislation, adding, “There are some guidelines. It’s not a free-for-all.”  

In fact, had that decision stood, it would have been a “free for all.” If the 1909 statute made assisted suicide legal, which it does not, then Hawaii would quickly become a breeding ground for abuse of those at the worst time in their lives – those who are sick and contemplating suicide.


Anonymous said...

My wife was recently admitted to a hospital in Hawaii. She had been having problems with infections in her legs due to liver failure. She had also just begun the requirements to get on a liver transplant list. She had been hospitalized several times for leg infection problems and asitis.
I took her to the ER to get antibiotics for a leg infection. She was hooked up to iv to administer antibiotics.
A while later, a hospital doctor who had treated her several times before came in to the ER to talk to her. He asked her what she wanted him to do for her. She replied...get me a liver.
He then replied that he would admit her and give her morphine for pain. I agreed to that even though I do not have her power of attorney. She was soon admitted and I left for home.
The next day I came in, she was in a good mood, but in pain. Her sister called and they had a nice conversation.
Later that day they hooked my wife up to a morphine drip. As time went on, she became more and more drowsy. It didn't seem she was getting any better other than the leg infection seemed to be clearing up.Twice our pastor came and visited and prayer with her, but a deeper drowsiness seemed to be taking over.
Late that night, I awoke, feeling very concerned about her decining condition and went to the hospital about 2am. A nurse was in her room. By this point she seemed almost comatose. I asked the to tell me exacty what the morphine was doing..she replied just making her more comfortable. I noticed that my wife was very hot and sweaty. The nurse mentioned she had a temperature of 101.3. My wife had no temperature when she was admitted. She also seemed to be having trouble breathing. I asked to speak to the doctor on duty that night but he would not come up to the ward to speak to me. I stayed the rest of the night with my wife.
By the morning, my wife was completely comatose, heart rate racing, gurgling in her throat. The nurse suctioned her several times down the throat. Later in the day they put tubes down her throat to do deeper suction. For a period of time, they gave her a
oxygen. I was now almost grieving over what seemed to be happening. My wife passed away at 4pm on This last thursday.
I am totally devastated over what seem to be an effort to take my wifes life with morphine. I have no idea what to do.
Bob Jasper

Alex Schadenberg said...

Your wife was denied basic care. She was denied antibiotics that would have cleared the infection and sent her home. The hospital used morphine to keep her comfortable but did not treat her actual condition.

The hospital needs to be sued for neglect.

Alex Schadenberg
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition