Hawai‘i is the 7th U.S. jurisdiction to have a Death with Dignity statute. The law, named Our Care, Our Choice Act, goes into effect on January 1, 2019.
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2018 Legislative Session
In 2018, the second year of a biennium, four death with dignity bills were introduced on January 24, of which HB 2739, Hawai‘i Our Care Our Choice Act, sponsored by Hawai‘i State Representatives Della Au Belatti (D-Makiki), Mark Hashem (D-Hahaione), Nicole Lowen (D-Kailua-Kona), Sylvia Luke (D-Makiki), Dee Morikawa (D-Niihau), Scott Nishimoto (D-Kapahulu), Scott Saiki (D-McCully), Gregg Takayama (D-Pearl City), and Chris Todd (D-Hilo), moved forward and eventually became law.
A joint hearing of the House Health and Human Services and Judiciary Committees on HB2739 HD1 took place on February 27. On February 28, the two committees passed the bill 4-1 and 7-1, respectively. A full House vote took place on March 6, 2018, with 39 Representatives voting in favor and 12 against.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health on March 16, 2018 passed the bill unanimously. The Senate Committee on Judiciary passed the bill 4 to 1 on March 23, 2018. The full Senate approved the bill on March 29, 2018 by a vote of 23 to 2.
Hawai‘i Governor David Ige signed the bill into law on April 5, 2018 as the Hawai‘i Our Care, Our Choice Act, effective January 1, 2019.
Other Bills in the 2018 Session
- SB 2727, Hawaiʻi Medical Aid in Dying Act, sponsored by Hawaiʻi State Senators Russell Ruderman (D-Puna), along with co-sponsors Senators Brickwood Galuteria (D), Clarence Nishihara (D), Donovan Dela Cruz (D), Karl Rhoads (D-Oahu), and Lorraine Inouye (D-Hilo). Senators Ruderman, Rhoads, and Inouye had sponsored SB 1129, which passed in the Hawaiʻi State Senate in 2017 and was later tabled in the House Committee on Health (see below).
- HB 2218, Hawaiʻi Voluntary Assisted Dying Act, sponsored by 16 Hawaiʻi State Representatives, led by primary sponsor Rep. Cindy Evans (D-North Kona).
- HB 2736, Hawaiʻi Our Care Our Choice Act, sponsored by Hawaiʻi State Representative John Mizuno (D-Kalihi).
- SB 1129, which passed in the Senate in 2017 and was deferred in a House committee (see below), is technically also alive.
A 2017 Merriman River Group poll commissioned by the Honolulu Civil Beat found that 63 percent of registered voters in the state supported the legislation. A 2018 Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy poll commissioned by the Honolulu Star Advertiser found 71 percent of state residents in support of an assisted dying bill.
No fewer than five bills related to assisted dying (three in the House and two in the Senate, all introduced on January 19, 2017) were introduced in the Hawai‘i state legislature.
Senate Bill 1129
SB 1129, Hawai‘i Death with Dignity Act (renamed by amendment to Medical Aid in Dying Act), sponsored by Hawai‘i State Senators Karl Rhoads (D-Oahu), Lorraine Inouye (D-Hilo), Michelle Kidani (D-District 18), and Russell Ruderman (D-Puna) was the bill that went through the Senate and was deferred in a House committee. The bill resembles the Oregon Death with Dignity Act most closely.
The bill received its first hearing, in the Hawaiʻi State Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health, on February 15, where it passed with amendments on a 6 to 0 vote. On February 28 the bill passed in the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor, again with amendments, on a 4 to 0 vote.
In the most recent, 2017, legislative session, a medical aid in dying bill (SB 1129) passed in the Hawai‘i State Senate on a 22 to 3 vote. The Hawaiʻi House of Representatives Committee on Health heard the bill on March 23, 2017, and deferred it; the bill may return for consideration in the House in the second year of the biennium.
On March 7, 2017, the Hawai‘i State Senate passed SB 1129 on a 22 to 3 vote.
The Hawaiʻi House of Representatives Committee on Health heard the bill on March 23, 2017, and deferred it.
Endorsements of SB 1129
Organizations that submitted testimony in support of SB 1129 (now SB 1129 SD2) for the Senate hearings included:
- Hawai‘i Death with Dignity Society
- ACLU of Hawai‘i
- Democratic Party of Hawai‘i (separately also the DP’s LGBT Caucus, Kapuna Caucus, and Women’s Caucus)
- International Longshore and Warehouse Union
- Interfaith Alliance Hawai‘i
- Life of Land
- Rainbow Family 808
- First Unitarian Church of Honolulu
- Chamber of Commerce for Persons with Disabilities Hawai‘i
- Hawai‘i Psychological Association
- Nursing Advocates and Mentors
- Compassion & Choices
- Hawai‘i Association for Justice
- Filipino-American Advocacy Network
- Hawai‘i Friends of Civil Rights
- Americans for Democratic Action Hawai‘i
- Hawai‘i Advocates for Consumer Rights
The Hawai‘i Medical Association has stated it would not oppose any assisted dying legislation this session.
Other Bills in the 2017 session
The other bills are, in the Senate:
- SB 357, Hawai‘i Patient Choice at End of Life Act, sponsored by Hawai‘i State Senators Lorraine Inouye (D-Hilo), Les Ihara (D-District 10), Karl Rhoads (D-Oahu), Russell Ruderman (D-Puna), Glenn Wakai (D-District 15), Brickwood Galuteria (D-District 12), and Brian Taniguchi (D-District 11).
In the House:
- HB 201, Hawai‘i Patient Choice at End of Life Act, sponsored by Hawai‘i State Representatives Joseph Souki (D-District 8), Jarrett Keohokalole (D-District 48), Sylvia Luke (D-District 25), Angus McKelvey (D-District 10), Scott Nishimoto (D-District 21), and Scott Saiki (D-District 26).
- HB 150, Hawai‘i End of Life Option Act, sponsored by Hawai‘i State Representative Gregg Takayama (D-District 34).
- HB 550, Hawai‘i Death with Dignity Act, sponsored by State Representatives Ken Ito (D-District 49) and Calvin Say (D-District 20).
Pre-2017 Efforts to Pass an Assisted Dying Law
Efforts to pass a Death with Dignity law in Hawai‘i date back almost two decades.
A physician-assisted dying bill was considered in the following sessions:
- 2001 (HB 2491 / SB2749, SB 709)
- 2002 (HB 2487 / SB 2745) – This session was the closest a bill came to passage, falling short in the state Senate by mere three votes.
- 2003-2004 (HB 862 / SB 391)
- 2005-2006 (HB 1454 / SB 1308)
- 2007-2008 (HB 675 / SB 800, SB 1995)
- 2009-2010 (HB 587, HB 806 / SB 1159)
- 2011-2012 (SB 803 / HB 1383 & HB 1165)
- 2013-2014 (HB 606)
- 2015-2016 (HB 1255 / SB 2373) – Senators Lorraine Inouye (D-District 4), Donovan Dela Cruz (D-District 22), Russell Ruderman (D-District 2), Brickwood Galuteria (D-District 12), and Glenn Wakai (D-District 15) introduced SB 2373, Hawai‘i Death with Dignity Act, on January 22, 2016. The bill was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health and the Committee on Judiciary and Labor, where it failed to meet a deadline for a hearing to be scheduled. In the House, HB 1255, introduced by Representative Ken Ito (D-District 49) in 2015, carried over to the 2016 session. Similar to the Senate bill, the House physician-assisted dying bill failed to meet a deadline for a hearing.
Our leadership team has worked with our local partner, Hawai‘i Death with Dignity Society, to rebuild a foundation for success.
- History of SB 1129 (2017)
- Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health Report
- Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor Report
- Our testimony to the Committee on Judiciary and Labor (page 43 of the pdf)
- Testimonies to the Senate Committees by advocates Mary Uyeda and Betts Cruz