End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Hawaii News

Compassion & Choices Commends Life and Work of Aid-in-Dying Advocate, Former State Rep Ernest “Juggie” Heen

HONOLULU (July 2, 2013)—Compassion & Choices mourns the passing and lauds the work of former Hawaii state representative Ernest “Juggie” Heen, who died June 30 in Honolulu at age 82 after a long bout with cancer.

Juggie was a tireless advocate for end-of-life choice in the 50th state. He was instrumental in helping to launch the Compassion & Choices “Join Juggie” campaign to activate Hawaii’s constellation of laws that empower terminally ill, mentally competent patients to make their own decisions about end-of-life care, treatment for pain and aid in dying. Thanks to his efforts, he had a choice at the end of life—as do the thousands of Hawaii residents who have attended Compassion & Choices meetings and trainings, considered requests for aid in dying, or simply become more aware of their options for a peaceful death. More

Compassion Drives ‘Aid in Dying’ Movement

By Mary Steiner

Jun 02, 2013

Vermont recently approved historic legislation allowing aid in dying, sometimes referred to as “death with dignity.”

Its The Patient Choice at End of Life Act represents a tremendous advance for citizens of that state and the entire movement to expand end-of-life choice. Although widely covered in media on the East Coast, this important development received little attention in Hawaii.

Aid in dying allows terminally ill, mentally competent adult patients to request, and physicians to prescribe, life-ending medication when they their suffering unbearable to bring about a peaceful death.

Vermont is the first state to enact such a law legislatively. Oregon and Washington passed death-with-dig- nity acts by referendum, while the Montana Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that physicians there may provide aid in dying.

The new Vermont law, which the governor signed on May 20, contains provisions similar to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act and policies in Hawaii. It follows Oregon’s model, but after three years, those requirements expire, at which time professional practice standards will prevail, as they do in Hawaii. More

Aid in Dying Is Not Suicide

By Dr. Charles F. Miller
Honolulu Civil Beat

I was interested to read Christopher Flanders’ letter on behalf of the Hawaii Medical Association in response to Civil Beat’s Oct. 5, 2012, article, “New Aid-in-Dying Service Gets Inquiries.” Flanders was responding to the piece’s closing question, “Is the aid-in-dying movement a humane approach to a difficult subject, or is it a violation of ethical standards?” I appreciate this opportunity to keep the issue of end-of-life choice in the forefront for healthy discussion.

I believe Flanders is correct when he states that, “The physician’s primary obligation is to advocate for the individual patient.” That is why I, and the majority of Hawaii physicians as well as state residents, feel that physicians should help their terminally ill patients achieve a peaceful death when patients request it and when options for recovery are nil.


Aid-in-Dying Supporters Vow to Help Hawaii’s Terminally Ill

by Lara Yamada
November 12, 2012

“In the end of February, it was discovered I had kidney cancer,” said hospice care worker Dorothy Haden, who has stage four cancer.

“I tried to live my life with dignity, and I do want to end my life with dignity,” said former lawmaker Earnest Juggie Heen, who has liver and pancreatic cancer.

Both said they want to choose how and when they end their lives.

“It’s our position that aid in dying is legal and it can be incorporated into medical practice legitimately here in Hawaii,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, who is the president of Compassion & Choices, a national nonprofit organization that supports aid in dying. She returned to Hawaii in early November, one year after a small group of Hawaii doctors first prescribed life-ending medication to a terminally ill patient.

“Hawaii has a constellation of laws that have never really criminalized aid in dying,” she said.

She said in the past year, 31 people have inquired about aid in dying, seven qualified to receive medication, and four were actually prescribed it, but she said all four died of natural causes before taking that prescription.

“People just want the comfort. They just want peace of mind,” she told KITV4 reporter Lara Yamada. More

New Aid-in-Dying Service Getting Inquiries

by Chad Blair
Honolulu Civil Beat
October 5, 2012

Compassion & Choices Hawaii, a nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life, received 31 local inquiries in its first year of service.

The figure comes from an annual report released by the Physician Advisory Council for Aid in Dying, or PACAID, a group of local doctors that collaborates with Compassion & Choices Hawaii and can prescribe life-ending medication if necessary.

PACAID has a rigorous eligibility process that applicants must go through, and of those 31 inquiries only seven qualified to consult with a PACAID doctor.

Of the seven, four received a prescription for medication “which they could ingest to end their life and suffering in peace and dignity, at the time of their choosing,” according to a Compassion & Choices press release.

As of Thursday, two of the four patients died from natural causes and none had taken the medication.

“Terminally ill people get peace of mind from knowing they can request medication that will allow them to achieve a peaceful death,” Mary Steiner, campaign manager for Compassion & Choices Hawaii, said in a statement. “Some people get a prescription and don’t take the medication for weeks or months. They go on living their life.”

Steiner dismissed arguments from opponents of aid in dying that patients would use the medication prematurely.

“The report shows just the opposite, as we have seen in other states where the option is available,” she said. “Patients frequently say that the peace of mind and control they gain makes it easier to live out their remaining days.” More