Hawaii Four-0

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.
Michael Cook | Feb 9 2011 | comment  

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 legislative committee.

But 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.) 

Not 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. 

* * * * *

Charlotte Smith

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!

* * * * *

Rhodora S. Rojas

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 have.

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.

* * * * *

Beth Arnoult

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 myself…

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.

Sincerely, Elsie

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.

Guess what!

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.

This article is published by Michael Cook and MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

comments powered by Disqus
Follow MercatorNet
MercatorNet RSS feed
subscribe to newsletter
Sections and Blogs
Family Edge
Sheila Reports
Reading Matters
Demography Is Destiny
From the Editor
contact us
our ideals
our People
our contributors
Mercator who?
partner sites
audited accounts
advice for writers
privacy policy
New Media Foundation
L1 488 Botany Rd
Alexandria NSW 2015

+61 2 8005 8605
skype: mercatornet

© New Media Foundation