America’s premier vacation paradise has become the latest state to embrace a culture of death. On April 5 Hawaii became the sixth state to allow people to legally kill themselves as Governor David Ige signed the state’s legalized suicide measure, which allows terminally ill patients to end their lives with the aid of a physician.
The measure, deceptively called the “Our Care, Our Choice” bill (HB 2739) was pushed through by a Democrat-controlled legislature, with Hawaii’s House of Representatives passing it on a 39-12 vote March 6, followed by a 23-2 rubber-stamping by the Senate. In February Governor Ige, also an ultra-liberal Democrat, declared that “mentally competent, terminally ill people who are in pain and who are suffering should be given the choice to end their lives with grace, dignity and peace. At the bill’s signing “ceremony” Ige added: “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.”
Hawaii joins six other states — California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, along with the District of Columbia — that have all approved the dispatching of their burdensome terminally ill by allowing death-minded doctors to kill them. Oregon was the first state to pass a law allowing for suicide by physician over two decades ago, sanctioning doctors to prescribe a lethal cocktail to “mentally sound” patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Significantly, one Democrat state legislator, Senator Breene Harimoto, voted against the bill, noting that the measure creates “an environment of hopelessness.” Harimoto said that he has personally battled cancer. “My faith in God, prayers and sense of hope got me through this,” Harimoto said. “Because of this personal experience, I feel so strongly that we must always have hope and never give up.”
Matt Valliere of the New York-based Patients Rights Action Fund, one of the leading voices opposing assisted suicide, issued a statement following passage of the measure, saying that “today is a tragic day for all Hawaiians, but especially people who are poor, elderly, or have disabilities because they will be the first to suffer from this reckless law allowing assisted suicide in their state. For them, the ‘right’ to die will quickly become a duty to die because of a lack of resources or the need for expensive health care. This public policy is unfair to the most vulnerable members of society who instead deserve our support and protection.”
Leading Hawaii’s religious leaders in condemning the measure was Catholic Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu, who wrote in an editorial: “I find it ironic that the act of taking one’s life, which people have been doing quite autonomously for thousands of years, is now only to be sanctioned if one has the permission of one’s ‘health’ care provider, the state legislature, and the governor.”
Continued the bishop: “My wonder at this apparent contradiction is compounded when I think of how, until now, we have prided ourselves on helping people not take their own lives. We have suicide prevention programs and hotlines, and have always considered suicide a tragedy that wreaks havoc on so many survivors who feel grief and frustration that they were not able to prevent this ‘autonomous’ decision from being made.”
Bishop Silva noted that the new law allows a doctor to list the terminal illness, rather than suicide, on the death certificate of a victim of physician-assisted suicide. “In other words, it will lie about the real immediate cause of death, which is freely and deliberately ingesting a poison into one’s system,” Silva wrote. “If we call it another name besides suicide, then it may become respectable. Under no circumstances should we call it what it is, since certain insurance benefits may not be available to one’s estate if one commits suicide. So let’s also lie to the insurance company by calling it ‘death with dignity’ or some other title that will make it sound more respectable.”
He added that as a pastor and spiritual leader, he was compelled to “raise the question of whether someone who deliberately, with documentable soundness of mind and determination of will, violates God’s basic commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ may be flirting with a fate worse than a debilitating terminal illness.... God does allow us the autonomy to make such decisions, but he warns us of the dire consequences — and relentlessly attempts to turn us away from such self-destructive decisions.”
The Catholic News Agency noted that in June 2016, Pope Francis weighed in on assisted suicide, calling it part of a “throwaway culture” that offers “false compassion” and treats suffering individuals as little more than problems to be solved. “True compassion does not marginalize anyone, nor does it humiliate and exclude — much less consider the disappearance of a person as a good thing,” the Pope told the directors of the orders of physicians of Spain and Latin America. He targeted individuals and entities “who hide behind an alleged compassion to justify and approve the death of a patient.”
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