Last week, Hawaiian Governor David Ige signed a bill legalizing assisted suicide, bucking nationwide trends. Last month, the “Our Care, Our Choice Act” passed the state House of Representatives with a 39-12 vote, and then passed the Senate with a vote of 23-2. “It is time for terminally ill, mentally competent Hawaii residents who are suffering to make their own end-of-life choices with dignity, grace and peace,” Ige said as he signed the bill.
The law allows people with a terminal illness to receive a lethal prescription, so long as two doctors agree that the victim is mentally competent and has six months to live. The victim must also make two separate requests, in front of two witnesses. The victim must be able to take the fatal medication on their own, and the request can be made without notifying family first.
While assisted suicide is now legal in six states, as well as in Washington, D.C., more states have banned the practice or refused to legalize it. Utah, for example, recently added assisted suicide to the criminal code, and recent assisted suicide measures have failed in 27 states, including previously in Hawaii. Multiple medical organizations have also begun to speak out against it as it seemingly grows in popularity, despite growing reports of abuses taking place in states like California and Oregon. People with disabilities are also often pressured to die in places where assisted suicide is legal.
While advocacy groups claim that people need the ability to kill themselves to die a death with “dignity”, the reality is that most people don’t choose assisted suicide because they are afraid of a painful, undignified death. Multiple studies, including from the New England Journal of Medicine and the British Medical Journal, have shown that people seek out assisted suicide because they are depressed, hopeless, don’t have any support, and scared that they are a burden on their families. When these underlying issues are treated, the request for assisted suicide is often withdrawn. These studies also have found that people who do have clinical depression and request to die are not being adequately protected by existing assisted suicide laws, in states like Oregon.