Friday, July 31, 2020

Hawaii 2019 assisted suicide report urges removal of safeguards.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Hawaii assisted suicide law came into effect on January 1, 2019. The 2019 Hawaii assisted suicide ("Our care, our choice act") report indicates that in the first year of assisted suicide:
  • 30 people were prescribed lethal drugs, 
  • 15 people died by assisted suicide,
  •  8 people received a lethal prescription died but did not die by assisted suicide, and
  • 7 people remained alive at the end of 2019.
Since the 2019 Hawaii assisted suicide report was released on July 1 the report also includes preliminary data for 2020 indicating that from January 1 to June 26, 2020, 24 people were prescribed lethal drugs and 13 people died by assisted suicide.

The Hawaii Department of Health urges the government to remove safeguards.

In the final paragraph of the 2019 report the Hawaii Department of Health recommends the following changes to the assisted suicide law:
  1. Waiver of any waiting periods if the attending provider and consulting provider agree that patient death is likely prior to the end of the waiting periods.
  2. Given access to health care providers is limited, the DOH recommends authorizing advance practice registered nurses to serve as attending providers for patients seeking medical aid in dying.
The Department of Health recommendations follow the direction of the assisted suicide lobby who are lobbying for the removal of safeguards. On January 1, 2019, the assisted suicide lobby stated that assisted suicide laws contain too many safeguards. In 2019, the Oregon legislature expanded their assisted suicide law by waiving the 15 day waiting period.

Even though assisted suicide was legal for less than one year, the assisted suicide lobby promoted two options to expand the assisted suicide law. The Hawaii legislature debated bills SB 2582 and HB 2451 to expand the assisted suicide law by:

  • permitting nurses to prescribe lethal drugs,
  • shortening the waiting period in general, and 
  • waiving the waiting period when someone is "nearing death."
The Hawaii legislature also debated bill SB 3047 that would have expanded the assisted suicide law by:
  • allowing assisted suicide for incompetent people through advanced directives,
  • waiving the counseling requirement, 
  • approving assisted suicide by "telehealth" and 
  • requiring insurance companies to pay for assisted suicide.
When Hawaii legislators debated assisted suicide, in 2018, the safeguards in the bill were proposed to get legislators to vote YES to assisted suicide. It appears that the assisted suicide lobby got the assisted suicide bill passed with the intention of quickly expanding it.

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