The governor of Hawaii just passed a law allowing doctors to give life-ending drugs to patients diagnosed with a terminal illness who have six months or less to live. Governor David Ige, signed HB 2739 which is known as the Our Choice, Our Care Act on Thursday, April 5th, 2018.
The bill is very restrictive and leaves little room for interpretation to ensure that the practice isn’t abused. It requires two doctors to confirm that the patient has less than six months left to live. The patient is also required to administer the medication to themselves, and a mental health provider needs to attest to the patient’s mental capacity. Doctors are required to give patients a full explanation of all end-of-life options available to them. The bill makes it a criminal offense for anyone who attempts to coerce a patient into getting the drugs or interfering with an existing prescription for a patient.
In a press release, Governor Ige gave his opinion on the matter saying that he felt the bill was safe because there were safeguards implemented as well. He also said it’s time for residents of Hawaii who struggle with tough end-of-life choices to handle with grace, dignity and peace.
The Department of Health in Hawaii will utilize an advisory committee as they implement changes to the current law. The issue of whether someone has the right to die has been a touchy subject in the United States recently. New York’s highest court ruled against allowing physician assisted suicide in September of 2017, and earlier in the same year, the House committee rejected the Death with Dignity Act proposed in Washington D.C. Montana’s legislature introduced a law that allows the courts to charge physicians who engage in physician assisted suicide with homicide. This is in conflict with the current law that does allow life-ending options. The Nevada Senate passed a bill that would allow physician aid-in-dying.