This January, the House took up four separate Death with Dignity bills, choosing to advance HB 2739, Our Care Our Choice Act, sponsored by Hawaiʻi State Representatives Della Au Belatti (D-Makiki), Mark Hashem (D-Hahaione), Nicole Lowen (D-Kailua-Kona), Sylvia Luke (D-Makiki), Dee Morikawa (D-Niihau), Scott Nishimoto (D-Kapahulu), Scott Saiki (D-McCully), Gregg Takayama (D-Pearl City), and Chris Todd (D-Hilo).
This time around, the legislative outlook for supporters was positive. Would 2018 be Hawaii’s year?
On February 28, the House Health and Human Services and Judiciary Committees passed the bill 4-1 and 7-1, respectively, paving the way for the landslide 39-12 vote in the full House of Representatives on March 6.
The Our Care Our Choice Act received a major boost when Hawai‘i Governor David Ige said he would be “proud and honored” to sign the bill.
The Senate worked quickly to move the bill through committees. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health on March 16, 2018 passed the bill unanimously. The Senate Committee on Judiciary passed the bill 4 to 1 on March 23, 2018.
When the full Senate approved the bill on March 29, 2018 by a vote of 23 to 2, it became clear that Hawaii was on the verge of making history. Sixteen long years after the movement’s near-win, Death with Dignity advocates were one signature away from the Aloha State becoming the nation’s seventh jurisdiction with an assisted-dying statute.
Today, Governor David Ige signed the Our Care, Our Choice Act into law. Starting January 1, 2019, Hawaii’s citizens will have the same compassionate end-of-life option that residents of Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, and Washington, D.C. enjoy.
Reflecting on the legislative victory, Death with Dignity Executive Director Peg Sandeen expressed gratitude for the lawmakers and advocates who over many years worked to make policy reform in Hawaii a reality.
“We thank the members of the Legislature who recognized that the will of voters could no longer be ignored and brought the bill forward to successful votes in the House and Senate.
“As we celebrate the Governor’s signing this legislation into law, we cannot help but think of and thank the many citizens of Hawaii who worked for passage of this law, but never saw it come to pass. We thank them for the courage to speak out and begin this conversation.
“Hawaii residents can feel comfort knowing that the laws in other states, particularly Oregon where it has been in effect for more than 20 years, have proven flawless in their implementation, protecting the rights of patients, family members and health care professionals as they work through this process. Be assured that the safeguards your legislators have enacted into this law will ensure that patients are in control of this process and make their own decisions at every step of the way—as is their right.”