Hawaii becomes sixth state to legalize assisted suicide

Hawaii becomes sixth state to legalize assisted suicide
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Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) on Thursday signed new legislation allowing terminally ill patients to end their lives, making Hawaii the sixth state to legalize assisted suicide.

The measure, modeled on an Oregon law that has been on the books for two decades, lets a doctor prescribe lethal medication to mentally sound patients who have less than six months to live.

“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 at a signing ceremony.

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There are several provisions built into the law as safeguards to mollify those who worried that the system could be abused. Two doctors must confirm that the patient is terminally ill with less than six months to live. The doctor who assists the patient must tell him or her about alternative options, including pain management and hospice care. 

Patients will have to undergo a 20-day waiting period before receiving their prescription. And patients must make their request in writing, with two witnesses — at least one of whom is not allowed to be a beneficiary of the patient’s estate.

The state Department of Health will now form an advisory committee to begin implementing the new law. 

Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado and the District of Columbia all have similar assisted suicide laws on the books. Montana doctors may also prescribe end-of-life drugs after the state Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that nothing in state law bars a physician from doing so, according to Death With Dignity, a national group that advocates for assisted-suicide laws.

Similar proposals have been introduced in 24 states this year, Death With Dignity reported.