Hawaii: A bill to create a physician-assited suicide regime modellled on Oregon's system sailed through the State Senate this week, by a vote of 22 to 3, despite some heartfelt speech from a senator who survived pancreatic cancer. The bill now moves to the House.
Montana: A bill to criminalise doctor's participation in assisted suicide was recently defeated on a tied vote. The bill would have nullified a controversial 2009 Montana Supreme Court ruling that found that there was nothing in state law that prohibits a physician from helping a patient to commit suicide.
Kansas: a House of Representatives Committee this week heard testimony in favour of a resolution that “condemns” physician assisted suicide and promotes improvements to palliative care. Resolution No. 5010, which mirrors model legislation drafted by the lobby group Americans United for Life, calls on the legislature to oppose assisted suicide, “because anything less than a prohibition leads to foreseeable abuses and eventually to euthanasia by devaluing human life, particularly the lives of the terminally ill, elderly, disabled and depressed”.
Washington DC: A Death with Dignity Act became effective on February 20. Although the US Congress has the power to override DC laws, it missed a statutory deadline, so physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in the nation's capital. Opponents in Congress plan to use other measures to nullify the DC law.
A State Senator in Hawaii, Breene Harimoto gave an emotional address this week to persuade his colleagues to vote against a bill for legalising physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. He said that in 2015 he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which has a low survival rate and can be quite painful. But he was cured. “It is a miracle that I am still alive,” he said.
His point was that “terminal illness” is almost meaningless. Margaret Dore, a Seattle lawyer who lobbied against the bill, recalls an even more dramatic incident. “A few years ago, I was met at the airport by a man who at age 18 or 19 had been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and given 3 to 5 years to live, at which time he would die by paralysis. His diagnosis had been confirmed by the Mayo Clinic. When he met me at the airport, he was 74 years old. The disease progression had stopped on its own."
If Senator Harimoto or Ms Dore’s friend had the option of assisted suicide, they might stopped fighting their disease and chosen a quick death. They would have chopped decades off their lives. “Terminal illness” is a pillar of assisted suicide legislation – and it just doesn’t make sense.
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