Like previous versions, the measure before the Legislature would allow a terminally ill, competent adult to obtain a lethal dose of medication for the purpose of ending his or her life. Opponents, including Governor Lingle, warn that enactment of such legislation would create a "slippery slope," but the bill specifically prohibits mercy killings, lethal objections and active euthanasia. As pointed out in a Feb. 12 column on these pages by Roland L. Halpern, executive director of Compassion In Dying of Hawaii, the bill before the Legislature includes more than a dozen safeguards to prevent abuse. Doctors must counsel patients on alternative forms of treatment, the patients must be physically able to self-administer the lethal medication and the patients are subject to a mandatory waiting period. The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill last week by a 10-5 vote and sent it to the full House. The proposal's chance of passage are promising in the House. As in 2002, a closer battle is expected in the Senate. The bill is similar to Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, ratified by 60 percent of that state's voters in 1997. Since it became law, 129 Oregonians asked for a prescribed lethal dose through 2002, the most recent year in which data is presently available. Far more patients have taken their own lives by refusing to eat or drink, according to a national survey last year of 1,902 doctors, nearly 400 of whom had been asked by terminally ill patients for assistance in dying. Doctors agreed to assist 80 patients in dying, even though Oregon is the only state where such aid is legal. Medical advances have allowed people to live beyond their expectations and, in many cases, their desire. Rep. Marilyn Lee, a Judiciary Committee member who voted for the bill but with reservations, suggests that similar advances have led to medications that relieve pain and suffering. "Really," says Lee, a nurse for 35 years, "no one should be in constant pain in today's world." However, Oregon patients who were ready to die cited their poor quality of life created by their terminal ailments, not pain and suffering. Such terminally ill patients should be allowed assistance in ending their lives with dignity.