March 31 (UPI) — Hawaii Gov. David Ige must decide whether to legalize physician-assisted suicide, after the state legislature approved putting it on the books.
The Hawaii Senate approved the measure Thursday, 23-2, which would make the islands the sixth state in the United States to legalize the practice.
Under the bill, adults in Hawaii “with a medically confirmed terminal disease and less than six months to live may choose to obtain a prescription for medication” to end their life. Criminal sanctions will also be imposed on anyone who tampers with a patient’s request for a prescription or coerces a patient to request a prescription.
The law, which would take effect next year, now awaits Ige’s signature. He has already said he supports the measure.
Before the vote, state Sen. Breene Harimoto, who was diagnosed in 2015 with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer, voiced opposition to the bill.
“My faith in God, prayers and a sense of hope got me through this. I feel so strongly that we must always have hope and never give up,” Harimoto said, adding that he thanked God for the opportunity to be able to cast his “no” vote.
Sen. Mike Gabbard, who also voted against the measure, said the bill could open “the door to normalizing other types of suicides.”
Other state senators disagreed.
“There is no reason to deny others the freedom to live and die as we choose,” Sen. Russell Ruderman said.
Sen. Josh Green, who worked as an emergency room physician, said although he is sworn as a doctor to do no harm, he felt obligated to do what he could to alleviate patient suffering.
Death with Dignity, a nonprofit organization that advocates for medical aid-in-dying laws, tweeted that the vote marked “Victory in Hawaii!!!.”
A Gallup poll last year showed nearly three-quarters of Americans support the practice of patient euthanasia, if a patient wants it.