HONOLULU, Hawaii (ChurchMilitant.com) - The terminally ill in Hawaii can now legally obtain a suicide pill from their doctor.
A bill called the Our Care, Our Choice Act was first introduced to Hawaii's lawmakers on January 24. The legislation sought to make it legal for terminally ill patients with an estimated six months or less to live to request fatal prescriptions from their physician.
It passed through the state's two houses and came to the governor's desk at the end of March. Hawaii's Gov. David Ige signed the measure into law on Thursday. Ige said at the signing, "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."
A slew of politicians and lobbyists were present in Ige's office when he signed the bill. Prominent among them was John Radcliffe, a cancer patient who has been lobbying for the government's permission to kill himself with a physician's help.
At the age of 74, Radcliffe has stage four liver and colon cancer. He has been deemed terminally ill. On January 11 this year, he filed a suit in the court arguing that laws against murder and manslaughter should not be applied to a doctor who helps a terminally ill patient to voluntarily kill himself.
The Our Care, Our Choice Act in Hawaii was modeled after a similar piece of legislation in Oregon, called the Death With Dignity Act. One of the bill's authors, House Majority Floor Leader Della Au Belatti, said on Thursday, "What this is about is ... it's a choice that an individual can make so that they are able to think about how they want to live the rest of their life."
Catholic teaching holds that the taking of innocent human life is always wrong. This includes suicide, such as physician-assisted suicide.
Opponents of assisted suicide often say that improving end-of-life medical care — also known as palliative care — is a better solution than helping patients kill themselves.
Gilbert K. Chesterton, prolific writer, convert to Catholicism and friend of the likes of Hilaire Belloc, had some interesting comments on suicide in his book Orthodoxy. In a well-known passage from chapter five of the book, Chesterton contrasted suicide with martyrdom, writing, "A martyr is a man who cares so much for something outside him that he forgets his own personal life. A suicide is a man who cares so little for anything outside him, that he wants to see the last of everything."
Hawaii is now the sixth state to legalize assisted suicide, following in the footsteps of California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. Assisted suicide is also legal in the District of Columbia.
Assisted suicide is legal in some European countries, such as Belgium and The Netherlands. Euthanasia, which is when the physician administers the lethal "medication" rather than merely providing the substance to the patient, is also legal in many of the same nations in Western Europe.