Hawaii became the latest state to legalize medically assisted suicide Thursday as the governor signed a measure into law allowing doctors to fulfill requests from terminally ill patients to prescribe life-ending medication. "It is time for terminally ill, mentally competent Hawaii residents who are suffering to make their own end-of-life choices with dignity, grace, and peace," said Gov. David Ige. Ige said the law was written to ensure the patient is in full control, and it provides just one option available for end-of-life care. "But we know that we have gotten to a point in our community that it does make sense to give the patient a choice to request the medication, obtain it and take it, or ultimately change their mind," the governor said. Hawaii joins California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington state, and DC in allowing the practice, reports the AP.
Critics are concerned the option will lead to hasty decisions, misdiagnoses, and waning support for palliative care. The law has safeguards: Two health care providers must confirm a patient's diagnosis, prognosis, ability to make decisions, and that the request is voluntary. A counselor also must determine that the patient isn't suffering from conditions that may interfere with decision-making, such as untreated depression. The patient must make two oral requests for the life-ending medication, with a 20-day waiting period in between, and sign a written request witnessed by two people, one of whom can't be a relative. Criminal penalties apply to anyone who tampers with a request or coerces a prescription.