This week a committee of the Hawaii Senate voted to shelve a bill for physician-assisted suicide after listening to emotional public testimony. Here are some of the stories.
Earlier this week,
by a vote of 4 to 0, a committee of the Hawaii Senate killed SB803, a bill that would have
legalized physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. The issue was
dropped after 4½ hours of testimony which was resoundingly against the proposal.
This is the third time in Hawaii that assisted suicide has stalled in a
rather than read about the politics of the debate, read what some of the bill’s
opponents told the committee in their written testimony. It’s hard to go past
first-person stories. (The submissions have been lightly edited for grammar and spelling.)
everyone opposed the bill, of course. Some people wrote to support
it emphatically. But nearly all of them were the worried well. The people below are not
well, but they’re not worried, either. You
can access submissions to the Hawaii legislature about the bill here.
This is the latest in a long run of losses for pro-euthanasia lobbies in the past year. As Peter Saunders reported recently in MercatorNet's blog on euthanasia, Careful!, it has been defeated in six countries: the US (Hawaii and New Hampshire), France, Israel, Australia (South Australia and Western Australia), Israel, and Scotland.
* * *
I'm sick to death of hearing about death
with dignity. I prefer life with enthusiasm. From this side of the veil, death
is not important. What is important is life. I'm 72, and have been unable to
stand or walk since age 10. But I earned 2 degrees in biology, worked 26 years
at NASA, travelled around the world, and become the first paraplegic woman to earn
a pilot’s license, And I've used my head a lot. My brain has no moving parts --
but it goes everywhere!
* * *
At the age of thirteen, I was injured in an
automobile accident and experienced a traumatic brain injury. I have had many
life and death experiences, and that is why I'm talking to you today.
I am glad and grateful my parents and
family supported me at the time. They were told that I would die or be a
vegetable the rest of my life. Have you ever seen a vegetable get on a plane and
fly to Honolulu to give testimony at a hearing!? Look at me now. I'm so very
glad that they stood up for me. I'm worried that others may not have the chance
of life if you pass the S8803.
I have finished my Bachelor of Arts degree
and I'm working towards my masters degree in vocational rehabilitation
counseling. I work at the Hawaii Center for Independent Living on Kauai. If
they had killed me, how could I have accomplished what I have? Even though my
life can be hard, I feel very blessed and very grateful to have the life I
Please do not pass S6803. It might be
cheaper to encourage someone to die than to be there for them and help them
live, but I don't believe it would be the right thing to do. Thank you for
hearing my testimony.
* * *
In 1991, I was In a bad ATV 4-wheeler
accident and broke my back, leaving me paralyzed from the waist down with
excruciating pain. I am now a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair the rest of
my life. It was considered a good day if I could sit up for longer than two
hours, due to the extreme back pain. It seemed to always be worse at night,
leading to depression. I had all of my mind, never even lost consciousness
during the accident, but, I'm sad to say, that If Physician Assisted Suicide
had been available to me at that time in my life, even up to several years
after, I'm afraid I would have opted for that route.
And that is so sad! It makes me cry just to
think about it. It takes a lot of guts to try and commit suicide on your own,
trust me, I've been there, and was never successful. Thanks to God. If it was
legal and readily available, that would have taken all of the guilt out of my
decision, because, “hey, if it's the law, then it must be OK!” Right?
God had purpose for my life! I just needed
to go through a time of suffering, years to be exact, to get where I am now. I have
a beautiful 14-year-old son, born 6 years after my accident! I have travelled
the world for 10 years playing professional wheelchair tennis, retiring after
representing the US in the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, Since then I even joined a
crew of adaptive paddlers and even paddled the Molokai Channel in a six-man
outrigger. I make an impact on many lives every day. I often get people who
come up to me and say that they are going to stop complaining about their sore
ankle, or other ache or pain, after seeing what I have overcome in my life.
I love life and am truly blessed. This
accident was a part of my journey to make me who I am today.
* * *
My name is Elsie and I was diagnosed with
multiple sclerosis In 1986. I am 49 years young. I have asked someone else to
read this testimony for me as I am in the hospital at this time and cannot come
A lot of people seem to have the opinion
that it would be better to be dead than disabled and I can tell you from my own
experience that this simply isn’t true for me. I have had my low moments and if
PAS [physician-assisted suicide] was available I might have jumped at the
opportunity during those low times. However, we all have those low moments and
though most of you would be protected, I can't assume that same protection would
extend to me or others like me who might not be as blessed as I am with loving
family & friends...
So, opening the door to the acceptance that
there are lives not worth living (terminally ill people in this case who want
to die) sends the wrong message to caring people. It changes and distorts
perceptions of life with all its ups and downs. We all know that trying to put
safeguards into law doesn't really protect anyone when economics comes into the
picture and there is no question that we are already seeing that In Oregon
where disabled people can't get needed services but can get the pills to kill
themselves. Please, I have too much to live for & so do others--·we can all
live without this bill.
PS: Day before yesterday I got a new
roommate and I heard the staff speaking to her. They were evidently repeating
to her that she had made the decision to stop eating and drinking and getting treatments
because she had decided to die as she wasn't strong enough to walk around. I
figured they were just trying to make sure they truly understood what she
wanted. Her friends at the bedside also said that, yes, she had told them she just
wanted to die. She hadn't eaten in a week she just wanted to die -- that's why
she moved to this floor -- to die.
The next day she started eating her
breakfast and told everyone who came into the room that she wanted to live. They
had to send a number of people in to verify that that was really true and then
they moved her upstairs. They seemed to question her sanity when she said she
wanted to live. I would have thought “You would question her sanity when she
said she wanted to die". It's a bad idea to make it too easy for people to take
their lives at a low time.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.