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With David Ige’s signature Thursday afternoon, Hawaii has become the 7th state to give terminally ill patients the ability to decide for themselves when they want to die.
The newly minted law, titled the ‘Our Care, Our Choice Act’, makes Hawaii the 7th state and 8th Jurisdiction to legalize assisted suicide. The law will officially go into effect January 1st of next year. The law will allow terminally ill patients in the state of Hawaii to request medication from their doctors that will effectively end their lives. In order to qualify patients must be over 18 years old and estimated to have less than 6 months to live.
While Governor Ige acknowledged that the choice might not be for everyone, even admitting that within his own family there are differing opinions, he said that he believes there is a point that it does make sense to give the patient the option to request the medication and take it or change their mind.
Groups of activists have been working in collaboration with state lawmakers for over 2 decades to get the bill passed. Kim Callinan, CEO of advocacy group Compassion & Choices, added, ““This has really been the building of a ground-up operation”. Callinan and her group have been working with the state since the beginning of activist efforts.
Speaking on Thursday, Callinan said that laws that allow for aid in dying are about more than giving people the decision on when they want to die, it’s about giving those terminally ill patients more options in general.
Alternatively, conservative family groups like, Hawaii Family Forum, had started a petition prior to the bill’s signing that had gathered nearly 20,000 signatures in opposition.
“We are very concerned that a lot of the concerns that were brought up by the medical community … the disabled rights community, they were not taken into consideration,” Eva Andrade, the group’s president, stated at the time of delivering the bill to Governor Ige’s office.
Similar to the legislation pass in the other 6 states, the ‘Our Care, Our Choice Act’ requires doctors notify patients about all options including both those that do and do not involve assisted suicide. They are also required to notify patients that they always have the option to change their mind after they have requested and received the medication that would end their lives.
According to Callinan, most patients who request the medication actually do not end up taking it. It is really about giving those patients autonomy over their life and the option of ending their life if the pain and suffering becomes too much.
Assisted suicide has also been legalized in Washington DC, Washington, Vermont, Montana, Colorado and California.