1909 Hawaii law at center of death debate

Oct. 17, 2011 at 11:16 PM
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HONOLULU, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- Proponents and opponents of assisted suicide in Hawaii say they are locked in debate over a 102-year-old provision of state law that seems to allow it.

Proponents are pushing to make Hawaii the fourth U.S. state to legalize physician-assisted death, ABC News reported Monday.

A national group, Compassion and Choices, and the Hawaii Death With Dignity Society have found a provision in Hawaiian law they say means aid in dying has been legal all along.

The provision reads, "[W]hen a duly licensed physician or osteopathic physician pronounces a person affected with any disease hopeless and beyond recovery and gives a written certificate to that effect to the person affected or the person's attendant, nothing herein shall forbid any person from giving or furnishing any remedial agent or measure when so requested by or on behalf of the affected person."

The provision likely arose out of now-canonized Father Damien's missionary work on the Island of Molokai with those who suffered from leprosy, experts said.

Opponents of assisted suicide like the Catholic Church and those who represent the disabled say Compassion and Choices is spreading misinformation.

Karen DiCostanzo of Aloha Life Advocates said the 1909 law was only intended to allow doctors to give patients nontraditional remedies for illnesses such as leprosy, tuberculosis and asthma.

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