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House Joint Committee Hears Medical Aid in Dying Bill

Wayne Yoshioka

The House Health and Human Services and Judiciary Committees heard public testimony today on medical aid in dying legislation. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.



Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Dr. Peter Barcia opposes HB 2739

House Bill 2739 would provide terminally ill, mentally capable patients, the option of requesting licensed physicians to prescribe them medication to end their lives.  Dr. Peter Barcia, a surgeon for 51 years, testified against the measure.


“What it does is, it takes the care-giving physician, which I was trained to become, and makes them a killer.  I mean, I find that absolutely repulsive.”


The bill contains safeguards, including written documentation, physician and witness confirmations, extended waiting periods and patient cancellation.  The measure would also impose criminal charges for abuse, tampering or patient coercion.  Dr. Ron Hart, supports the bill, and says it’s not the act but the choice that matters.


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Dr. Ron Hart supports HB 2739

“A good case can be made that medical aid in dying should be looked at in the frame of human rights and civil liberties.  We believe very deeply in the principle of liberty and self-determination.”


As currently written, physician participation would be voluntary and the prescribed drugs would be self-administered or ingested by the terminally ill patient.   But, Dr. Craig Nakatsuka, a hospice physician, says having the drugs readily available is problematic.


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Dr. Craig Nakatsuka opposes HB 2739

“Having in the medicine cabinet 100 bright orange capsules of Secobarbital, the preferred drug for lethal ingestion, is an open invitation for accidental or intentional overdose.”


The Senate passed a similar medical aid in dying measure last session and the governor has indicated he would sign the current bill into law.  But, House Health and Human Services Committee Chair, John Mizuno, says a decision on the bill must be weighed in light of 13-hundred submitted testimonies.


“After talking with the chairs and the vice chairs, we decide to hold decision-making tomorrow, Wednesday, February 28th, 12 noon, in room 329.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Legislative Lobbyist and terminal cancer patient John Radcliffe says the bill should become law.

But, Legislative Lobbyist and terminal cancer patient, John Radcliffe, who also testified, says he believes lawmakers will pass the bill.


“Anybody who was opposed to death with dignity shouldn’t be afraid of this law.  This is even stronger than any other laws there are as far as I can tell.  But, nonetheless, it’s the best we’re gonna get so I’m for it.”


For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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