Hawaii moved another step closer to legalizing medical aid in dying today with a key Senate committee unanimously advancing House Bill 2739, known as the Our Care, Our Choice Act.
The Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee voted 6-0 in favor of the measure after hearing about two hours of public testimony in favor and against the bill.
The committee did not make any amendments to the bill, which would allow terminally ill patients to request prescriptions for lethal doses of medication.
“This measure, which I think is a very important one for all of our citizens, it doesn’t require anybody to take advantage of it, it merely gives people a choice and the option,” said Sen. Rosalyn Baker, chairwoman of the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee.
The bill still needs the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a full Senate vote. The Senate last year passed out a similar measure but the bill was tabled by a House committee and was never put to a House floor vote.
Many of the testifiers today previously voiced their opinions on the measure during a lengthy hearing last month in the House. The House later approved the bill by a 39-12 vote and sent it over to the Senate for consideration.
“The bill before you is modeled after the Oregon law, which has been tested and proven safe for 20 years,” Kat West, national director of policy and programs for the Oregon-based nonprofit Compassion & Choices, said in supporting testimony. “There has not been a single instance, not a single instance, of coercion or abuse.”
Deacon Walter Yoshimitsu with the Hawaii Catholic Conference, which represents the Roman Catholic Church in matters of public policy, testified in opposition.
“The legislators are trying to reduce suicide … and yet we are considering what I consider suicide for the terminally ill,” he said. “I think it sends the wrong message to the youth of our community that says it’s OK for one set of people in our community but not for us.”