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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, February 11, 2002

Legislators must debate assisted-suicide issue

Once again, we have the opportunity to debate the merits of physician-assisted suicide, so it's frustrating that key lawmakers are keeping the discussion at bay.

Gov. Ben Cayetano, who tried unsuccessfully to advance the emotionally charged issue in 1999, is back with two bills: One would allow the terminally ill to ask their doctors to help them die, and another would ask voters if they want to amend the state Constitution to give terminally ill adult patients the choice to get a doctor's prescription for drugs to end their life.

We strongly support giving this crucial issue another shot.

Unfortunately, Senate Health Committee Chairman David Matsuura won't even consider hearing the bills, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Eric Hamakawa is undecided. Are traffic cameras the only issue lawmakers feel comfortable discussing in this election year?

Physician-assisted suicide deserves attention, particularly in light of the fact that Hawai'i's population is aging. Supporters and opponents both have strong arguments, so let's hear them. Even though the issue has been carefully studied by Cayetano's Panel on Living and Dying with Dignity, the legal and political landscape is always changing.

Ultimately, there has to be a remedy to end the suffering of the terminally ill and those who love them. Time simply isn't a luxury they can afford, so let's not shelve this issue for another year.