Governor David Ige on Thursday signed HB 2739 — the Our Choice, Our Care Act. The bill gives mentally capable, terminally ill people with six months or less to live – the option to take prescription medication that enables them to die peacefully in their sleep.
HB 2739 is modeled after Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, which has been in practice for 20 years. The Hawaiʻi bill establishes a regulatory process under which the terminally ill patient may choose to obtain a prescription for medication to end the patient’s life.
The bill includes strict eligibility criteria and safeguards that ensure a safe, compassionate and patient-centered end-of-life practice. In addition, there are additional regulatory requirements to address opponents’ concerns about misuse.
Among the safeguards: the patient is required to take the medication on his/her own; two doctors must confirm the terminal illness and six-month prognosis; patients are not eligible for medical aid in dying based on age or disability; the attending physician must inform the requesting patient about all end-of-life care options, including pain and symptom management, hospice and palliative care; the patient’s mental capacity must be confirmed by a mental health professional; two separate requests for medication must be made, with a 20-day waiting period between the first and second request; a written request overseen by two witnesses is also required, with one witnesses prohibited from being a beneficiary of the patient’s estate.
The measure also makes it a criminal offense to tamper with a patient’s request for a prescription or to coerce a patient to request a prescription.
“I believe that we have clear safeguards in place. It is time for terminally ill, mentally competent Hawai‘i residents who are suffering to make their own end-of-life choices with dignity, grace and peace,” said Governor Ige. “I am honored to sign HB 2739 into law, in hopes of giving these patients and their families choices and peace of mind.”
With Gov. Ige’s signature, the Department of Health will form an Advisory Committee to help facilitate the implementation of the new law.
Act 2 becomes law on January 1, 2019.