(CNSNews.com) -- Hawaii's liberal Democratic governor, David Ige, signed legislation into law on Thursday that makes Hawaii the eighth jurisdiction in the United States to allow physician-assisted suicide of terminally ill patients. The other seven jurisdictions are D.C., Montana, California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Vermont.
The bill, HB2739, was strongly supported in the Hawaii legislature, where there are 25 senators, all Democrats, and 51 House members, all Democrats except for 5 Republicans.
"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," said Gov. Ige. "We know that we have gotten to a point in our community that it does make sense to give the patient a choice to request the medication, obtain it, and take it, or ultimately change their mind."
Matt Valliere, executive director of the Patients Rights Action Fund, which opposes assisted suicide, said, "Today is a tragic day for all Hawaiians, but especially people who are poor, elderly, or have disabilities because they will be the first to suffer from this reckless law allowing assisted suicide in their state."
"For them, the 'right' to die will quickly become a duty to die because of a lack of resources or the need for expensive health care," said Valliere. "This public policy is unfair to the most vulnerable members of society who instead deserve our support and protection."
Under the new law, the "Our Care, Our Choice Act," an "adult resident of the State with a medically confirmed terminal disease and less than six months to live may choose to obtain a prescription for medication to end the patient's life." The law also "imposes criminal sanctions for tampering with a patient's request for a prescription or coercing a patient to request a prescription."
Two health care providers are required to diagnosis the patient and the "voluntariness of the patient's request." The patient must orally request the suicide drugs on two occasions, each separated by at least 15 days; there must also be a "signed written request that is witnessed by two people," one of whom must be a non-relative; and there are criminal penalities for anyone who tampers with a patient's request for the prescription or "coerces a person with a terminal illness" to request the suicide drugs.
The Hawaii legislature "concludes that adult, terminally ill residents of the State should have the fundamental right to determine their own medical treatment as they near the end of life, including the right to choose to avoid an unnecessarily prolonged life of pain and suffering," reads the new law.
Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Death with Dignity National Center, said of the legislation, “The time was right for Hawaii to adopt this law. For nearly two decades Death with Dignity National Center has worked with citizens, legislators, and leaders in Hawaii to bring the right to die with dignity to the people of Hawaii. Today marks a new beginning in Hawaii’s treatment of the terminally ill.”
In a commentary on the issue, Matt Valliere noted how similar assisted suicide laws in Europe have led to abuses. For instance, he notes from an AP report that "a whistle-blowing doctor in Belgium" revealed "details of a dementia patient's death by euthanasia" even though "the patient had never formally asked to die."
In 2016, as reported by a Washington Post column, an elderly woman in the Netherlands with dementia was euthanized against her will. The suicide injection was prepared. When the patient protested, the doctor put a sedative in her coffee. When that failed, the doctor asked family members to hold the woman down and then, after 15 minutes of trying to find a vein, the killing-poison was injected.
"Neither voluntary, painless nor dignified, this physician-assisted death has become the first ever referred to prosecutors by the Dutch regulatory commission — with, so far, unknown consequences," wrote Post columnist Charles Lane.
The Daily Mail reported in 2014 that the number of mentally ill patients killed by euthanasia in the Netherlands had more than tripled, from 13 in 2011 to 42 in 2013.
Dr. Peter Saunders, with the Christian Medical Fellowship, told the Daily Mail that doctor-assisted suicide is impossible to regulate. "Euthanasia in the Netherlands is way out of control," he said.