Parties split on assisted suicide
|||Where the candidates stand|
Advertiser Capitol Bureau Chief
The candidates for governor divide along party lines over the issue of physician-assisted suicide, with both of the Republicans opposing any plan to allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication for terminally ill patients who want to end their lives.
All three of the leading Democrats said they would support a new law to allow physician-assisted suicide, an issue that was hotly debated at the state Legislature this year.
The state House this year passed a bill backed by Gov. Ben Cayetano that would have allowed physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients so that the patients could end their own lives. The bill, similar to legislation passed in Oregon, required the patients to be mentally capable of making their own healthcare decisions, and specifically prohibited euthanasia.
The bill passed the House in a 30-20 vote, but failed in the Senate in the final days of the session, with senators voting 14-11 to shelve it.
Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, who is running for governor as a Democrat, said the proposed law would allow people to make a basic personal decision for themselves.
"We're not talking about euthanasia here," she said. "We're talking about an individual person's decision while they are very lucid, and I believe that that is one of the most fundamental decisions one can make about their own lives."
State Rep. Ed Case, who is also running as a Democrat, voted in favor of the House bill. He said such a law would allow people to exercise their religious, spiritual and moral beliefs freely.
"I think we're past the point of dictating to somebody what they can and cannot do in this terrible circumstance," said Case, adding that people who disagree with suicide can choose not to use this option.
"We are not requiring anybody to end their own life, we are not requiring any medical doctor that does not want to prescribe the necessary medication to do so, we are not allowing anyone who is not proven to have a terminal illness or who does not have the capacity to make the decision to do it, we are not preventing anybody from exercising their own religious and moral convictions against this action," Case said.
Businessman and former state lawmaker D.G. "Andy" Anderson said he is not familiar with the bill's specifics, but agrees with the concept of physician-assisted suicide.
"I think it's an issue that gives us another choice," he said. "It's really a health amendment. I can request you to pull the plug, I can request you not to further any more medications to me. I already have lots of other choices. I think this one gives me another choice, so I support the concept."
Republicans Linda Lingle and former state Sen. John Carroll strongly disagree, and both said they oppose the bill.
Carroll said he is a "pro-life person" who opposes abortion, the death penalty and physician-assisted suicide.
"I just don't believe that it's up to us to make up those kind of decisions, and suicide to me is suicide, I don't care how you want to paint it, death with dignity or whatever," Carroll said. "I just believe God is supposed to run things, and I don't believe men are supposed to take it up and interfere."
Lingle said the idea of physician-assisted suicide is a "slippery slope," that could lead to euthanasia, adding that the concept is opposed by advocates for people with disabilities.
"I don't think people should be in the position of killing their family members, and I don't think doctors should be put in that position," Lingle said. "Knowingly giving someone a lethal dose of medicine, doctors are against it and I support them on that."
Reach Kevin Dayton at email@example.com or 525-8070.