Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Hawaii debates bill to expand assisted suicide law.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Hawaii assisted suicide law came into effect on January 1, 2019. Only two years after legalizing assisted suicide, the Hawaii legislature is now debating the expansion of assisted suicide with Bill SB 323.

SB 323 proposes to expand assisted suicide by:

  • Reducing the reflection period to 15 days and then allowing the reflection period to be waived if the requester is deemed to be nearing death, 
  • Allowing registered nurses to also approve and prescribe lethal assisted suicide drugs,
  • Allowing clinical social workers to counsel people with questionable consent.

The 2019 Hawaii assisted suicide ("Our care, our choice act") report indicated 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. 

The 2019 Hawaii assisted suicide report was released on July 1, 2020. The report also included 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.

Even though assisted suicide had only been legal for one year, in 2020 the Hawaii legislature 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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