In Hawaii, the assisted suicide law came into force on 1 January 2019. Most health facilities have adopted neutral legislative policies, leaving it to each physician to decide whether or not to participate, but few physicians and pharmacies are willing to prescribe and dispense end-of-life drugs. In Honolulu, Hawaii Pacific Health and The Queen’s Medical Center explained that their pharmacies would not issue prescriptions and that hospitalised patients would not be able to take the lethal drugs on their premises.
“It’s not really medically assisted suicide—it’s doctors writing a prescription for a legal dose of medication to kill the patient”, said lawyer James Hochberg, president of Hawaii Family Advocates, who opposes the new law. “And it’s incompatible with the Hippocratic oath.” He also denounces a cumbersome process of which patients are unaware. They believe they can decide when to take the “tablet”, when it’s about multiple doses and waiting times once the prescription has been taken.
The law allows doctors to respond to prescription requests from terminally ill patients to allow them to die. Patients have to obtain two independent diagnoses, both of which must confirm a life expectancy of less than six months. They must also receive psychological counselling.
The State Department of Health predicts that 40 to 70 patients will seek medical assistance to die this year. Hawaii is the seventh US state to allow assisted suicide.