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Medical Aid In Dying: The Legal Issues

Wayne Yoshioka

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the medical aid in dying measure tomorrow.   As HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, some legal issues were raised during last week’s testimony.





House Judiciary Committee chair, Scott Nishimoto, says he and his fellow members reviewed the State Attorney General’s testimony line-by-line last week on the medical aid in dying measure, House Bill 2739.  He said the members added a secondary layer of safeguards for terminally ill patients with less than 6 months to live.


“We implemented the penalty section, that was the big one we did from the AG’s testimony.  It puts in an additional level of safeguards:  you know, you need two oral statements saying that you want it; a written statement; two doctors examinations; and the big one is, we put in a mental health examination, which was not in last year’s bill.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Attorney Jim Hochberg with testimony from a lawyer's perspective.

Another safeguard would prohibit a patient’s benefactor or family member from being a witness during the prescription drug request process.  But Attorney, Jim Hochberg, says the proposed criminal immunities are vague.


“When you go through this bill, it’s internally inconsistent.  On the one hand, there is no limit to liability for intentional or negligent conduct in violation of the statute.  On the other hand, good faith compliance creates a complete bar to any kind of criminal or civil liability.  Negligence and good faith compliance could be exactly the same thing and a judge is gonna have to figure that out.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Compassion and Choices director for policy and programs, Kat West, says all procedures must be followed to incur criminal immunities.


But, National Director for Policy and Programs for Compassion and Choices, Kat West, says all requirements of the law must be followed in order to impart criminal immunities.


“The immunities in this bill only apply if the doctor and the health care providers have fully complied with the provisions of the law and so if there’s malpractice, or if there’s something more serious that went on, the immunities do not apply at all.”


Judiciary Committee chair Nishimoto says the patient protections are the most stringent in the nation and he is hopeful the measure passes the full House March 6th.


“And that’s the balancing act, you know.  We have to make sure that there are protections and that people can also have access.  And I think we got it right.”


John Radclide, advocate for end of life choices

Stage-Four Cancer Patient and pro compassion and choices advocate John Radcliffe is also hopeful.


“It’s a very strong law.  It makes it much more difficult for a person like me to use 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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