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Hawaii to become 6th U.S. state to legalize physician-assisted suicide

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Hawaii is set to become the sixth U.S. state to legalize physician-assisted suicide after lawmakers voted in favor of the issue after years of campaigning. Governor David Ige has said he will sign the bill into law.

House Bill 2739, which is also known as the “Our Care, Our Choice Act,” passed the Hawaii Senate on Thursday in a 23-2 vote. The state’s House of Representatives, which rejected a similar bill just over a year ago, approved the bill on March 6 in a 39-12 vote.

The bill now heads to Governor Ige, who had called on lawmakers to vote in favor of physician-assisted suicide. “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,” he said on February 27.

Under House Bill 2739, mentally competent adults who live in the state and have a terminal illness will be able to request and receive prescription medication that allows them to die in a peaceful, humane, and dignified manner. It does not apply to those under the age of 18.

A patient who seeks physician-assisted suicide will have to make two verbal requests which are separated by at least 20 days and a written request which is witnessed by 2 people. Criminal penalties will be created for anyone who coerces someone to request a prescription.

Before approving a request, two health care providers will have to confirm the patient’s prognosis and a counselor will have to confirm he or she is capable and not suffering from depression or any other condition which may interfere with their ability to make an informed decision.

Physician-assisted suicide is different from euthanasia as the latter allows a doctor to actively end a patient’s life.

Physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in Switzerland, Germany, Japan, and the U.S. states of Oregon, Washington, California, Vermont, and Colorado, as well as the District of Columbia. Euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, and Canada. Passive euthanasia is legal in India.

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