May 2016 Legislative Update

Many thanks to all who took the time to contact legislators to support the Death With Dignity legislation introduced at the State Legislature. As expected, because 2016 is an election year, Senate Bill 2373 did not receive the needed committee hearings. Your effort was not in vain because we were able to show an important level of support and the feedback indicates that the senators who introduced the bill were very appreciative.

What Comes Next?

There is much to do between now and the 2017 legislative session and here’s what you can do now:

As possible, get to know your own legislators and the candidates running in your political districts. With the 2016 legislative session now over, all candidates for public office who are running for office are appearing at numerous community functions. Some will be free to the public and the usual political fundraisers are taking place. Find the latest list of all candidates running for office here. We will update this information pending the next official report.

We will be sending out as much information as possible about the dates, times and locations of these events, with the hope that our issue can be brought up directly to all of the candidates “in person.” Your phone calls or visits to their campaigns will be very important. Should you find out that a candidate is supportive or not, it would be of great help if you would let us know the results of your direct contact and interaction.

Ernest Juggie Heen

The late Ernest “Juggie” Heen

Again, “Mahalo!” for your past and future support. As the recent success in California demonstrated, Death With Dignity is very possible for Hawaii — if we build the needed political and grassroots support base. Please feel free to contact us to share information or to answer your questions.

We are naming SB2373 the “Juggie Heen Memorial Bill” in honor of the late former State Representative, Ernest “Juggie” Heen. “Uncle Juggie” has many friends still in the legislature and he worked tirelessly on our behalf. Also visit our memorial gallery honoring many who have gone before us and on whose shoulders we stand.

Scott Foster
Communications & Legislative Director

Is “It” Legal in Hawaii?

NO. It’s not legal in Hawai`i.

What really happened with Death with Dignity in 2012

In 2012, one of the two large mainland right-to-die organizations came to Hawaii in force and declared that death with dignity was already legal in our state. Compassion & Choices lawyer had based their argument upon a little-known 1909 Hawaii territorial law.

Shortly thereafter, the Hawai`i Attorney General stepped-in, issuing an opinion that writing prescriptions to hasten a competent adult’s impending death was still unlawful in Hawai`i—meaning that that such activity was still a crime and would be prosecuted as such.

After all the headline stories had died down, we found ourselves left alone fielding hundreds of phone calls from terminally ill people and their loved ones asking how they could get their prescription. We were also faced with having to rebuild our local organization’s reputation for being associated with Compassion and Choices ill fated “It’s legal” campaign.

Then in late 2015, our longtime friends at the Death with Dignity National Center (“National Center”) in Portland, Oregon, contacted us and graciously offered to again assist.

I say “again” because our close relationship with the National Center and their founding board member Eli Stutsman, JD, dates back to 2002, when our local organization came within three votes of passing a bill through the Hawai`i legislature. That year, literally with only a few days notice, Stutsman, the lead author of the original Oregon law, stepped up to the plate and his organization provided a major part of the substantial resources we needed to conduct our near-winning campaign.

Learn about the 2002 campaign HERE.

March 14, 2009, meeting with Death With DIgnity National's Eli Stutzman, Esq.

The Hawaii Death With Dignity Society meets again with Eli Stutsman (back row with lei) in Honolulu (2009)

It’s been over 20 years since “the  Oregon Bill” went into effect and it has indeed become the gold standard for the issue nationally. The National Center has played a key role in every state that has successfully passed a Death with Dignity law. While others may claim credit, the National Center’s track record speaks for itself. If we are to grow our local organization and attract the additional base of support needed to pass a bill in 2017, we want and indeed need, the National Center’s guidance and support.

Support Death with Dignity in the Aloha State

If you believe we need a local organization on the ground with a keen understanding of Hawai`i’s unique population, a local group working to see a Hawai`i Death with Dignity law passed, please consider making a contribution today to theNational Center HERE. You may also write a check payable to the DDNC and mail it to:

Death with Dignity National Center
520 SW 6th Avenue, Suite 1220
Portland, OR 97204

With your support, our work will continue in the present with a full understanding of the past and with an eye looking towards the future. We will ultimately prevail and see Death with Dignity a reality in Hawai`i nei.

Please feel free to email or call me directly for further information. As much as money, we need active participants in every corner of the state; people who are able to make a phone call, email or write a legislator or who can simply talk with and educate their relatives, caregivers and friends.

Aloha and mahalo for your kokua,

Scott Foster
Communications Director