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New Hawaiian Bill aims to improve access to the death with dignity statute

More than three years after physician-assisted death was legalized in Hawaii, advocates and health care workers say redundancies in the 2018 law and doctor shortages are preventing terminally ill patients, particularly those in underserved communities, from utilizing the option. They plead for a new bill.

The story of George Coleman

The cancer was so painful, George Coleman couldn’t stand up straight, the tumors forcing the rural Maui resident into a squat even on the short elevator ride to the doctor’s office. Coleman was in hospice when he seriously began to consider medically assisted death. He had been given six months to live after doctors found the cancer had spread from his appendix through his abdomen last summer. Four months later, the 68-year-old limousine driver wanted to die on his own terms, out of the hospital under a blazing blue sky. At Coleman’s insistence and after much prayer, his sister started calling a long list of doctors on Maui who would hopefully grant Coleman’s request. “The surgeon wouldn’t do it, the oncologist wouldn’t do it – but his cancer was so painful,” said Cindy Coleman-Jakubczak. “I remember just being in tears, talking to myself with my hands in the air, asking ‘Why, why won’t anybody help us?’”

House Bill 1823

Advocates hope House Bill 1823 will lower barriers to medically assisted suicide by making it easier for  doctors to prescribe medications and lowering wait times. The bill would ease access to the practice by shortening mandatory waiting periods and expanding authority to prescribe the life-ending drug to qualified advanced-practice registered nurses and physician assistants. House Bill 1823 has passed out of its committees and will enter its final reading in the Senate before returning to the House for approval.

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