Monday, December 26, 2011

AG Rejects Claim That Assisted Suicide is "Already Legal"

By Margaret Dore, December 26, 2011

On December 8, 2011, the Hawaii Attorney General issued a formal opinion rejecting a claim by suicide proponents that assisted suicide is "already legal" due to a 1909 statute.  The opinion, requested by Hawaii State Senator Joshua Green, MD, has now been publicly released.   The opinion not only rejects the proponents' claim, but affirmatively states that a physician who assists a suicide "could be charged under Hawaii’s manslaughter statute. . . ."  The opinion states:

"Dear Senator Green:

Re: Hawaii law on assistance with dying

You have asked (1) whether [the 1909 statute,] §453-1, Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS), authorizes a physician to assist a terminally ill patient with dying when requested by or on behalf of the patient, and (2) whether any criminal laws prohibit aid in dying.

We are assuming that a physician’s assistance with dying would consist of prescribing a lethal dose of medication that a terminally ill patient could take to bring on a swifter and possibly more peaceful death than would otherwise ensue. Our analysis addresses only this method of assistance. Briefly, (1) we do not believe that §453-1 provides authority for a physician to assist with dying, and (2) a physician who provided such assistance could be charged under Hawaii’s manslaughter statute. . . ."

To view the entire opinion, click here.

In Hawaii, a doctor or other person who causes or fails to prevent a suicide can also be subjected to civil liability, generally in a custodial situation.   See e.g., Schwenke v. Outrigger Hotels, 122 Hawai'i 389, 392 (2010).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Attorney General Rejects Claim That Assisted Suicide is "Already Legal"


The Attorney General of Hawaii has issued a formal opinion rejecting Compassion & Choices' claim that physician-assisted suicide, termed "aid in dying," is legal in Hawaii.

A press release issued by the Alliance Defense Fund describes that Senator Josh Green, MD had requested the opinion from Attorney General David Louie.[1]  The press release states:

"[T]he attorney general's legal opinion states that state law "does not authorize physicians to assist terminally ill patients with dying" and "a physician who provided assistance with death could be charged under Hawaii's manslaughter statute."

The press release also quotes Honolulu attorney Jim Hochberg:  "[N]o one should believe the recent falsehoods that pro-death proponents have spread about [Hawaii] law."

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[1]  To view the ADF Press Release, click here