Hawaii prepares for law allowing medically assisted suicide

HONOLULU — Hawaii health officials are urging health care organizations to prepare for the new state law that allows doctors to fulfill requests from terminally ill patients to prescribe life-ending medication.

State Department of Health officials said they are working to establish a process that assures “patients and their family members fully understand” alternative options, such as palliative and hospice care, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

The law that goes into effect at the start of next year requires two health care providers to confirm a patient’s diagnosis, prognosis, ability to make decisions and that the request is voluntary.

For patients to receive the life-ending medication, they must make two oral requests with a 20-day waiting period in between. They must also sign a written request witnessed by two people.

It will be a criminal offense to tamper with a request or coerce someone to get a prescription for life-ending medication.

The pain and palliative care department of the Queen’s Health Systems has assembled a team that has been meeting since May to draft policies, procedures and educational plans for staff, said Dr. Daniel Fischberg, the hospital’s medical director of the department.

The hospital has been preparing for the law so “that all patients may receive a prompt, skilled and compassionate response should they make a request,” he said.

While health care providers are gearing up, most doctors still seem reluctant to participate in the program, said Chris Flanders, executive director of the Hawaii Medical Association.

“There’s some discomfort with the whole issue ethically and morally. It’s touchy with a lot of different groups either from a personal religious standpoint or from a physician’s philosophical standpoint,” Flanders said. “It’s going to be the same as we experienced with the medical marijuana program. There’s going to be a handful of physicians who participate.”


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com


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