77% of Voters Favor End-of-Life Choice for Terminally Ill,
Near the Highest Level of Support in Nation;
Near-Unanimous (90%) Support for Patient’s Rights
HONOLULU – Compassion & Choices Hawaii, the local affiliate of the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life, today released a poll finding 77% of Hawaii voters support access to aid in dying. The survey showed overwhelming majorities believe self-determination at the end of life is their right, and trust individuals and doctors – not the government – to make decisions about this medical practice. Seventy-seven percent (77%) favor or strongly favor allowing mentally competent adults dying of a terminal disease to ask their doctors to prescribe medication that gives them the peace of mind they can achieve a peaceful death. This level of support is among the highest of any state in the nation.
Former State Representative Ernest “Juggie” Heen, who is suffering from incurable liver and pancreatic cancer, told the news conference, “I am part of the 77% who believe in choice, and hope for some measure of control at the end of life. I have sought treatment, but there is no cure for my cancer. Chemotherapy might offer a few weeks or months, but the cancer is incurable. I have lived a full life and want to achieve a peaceful death. When the time comes, a prescription for medication I could take myself to achieve a peaceful death would greatly ease my anxiety about pain and suffering.”
Hawaii pollster Barbara Ankersmit, president of QMark Research, conducted the poll and presented the findings at a Honolulu news conference. “More than three out of four favor allowing a mentally competent adult who is terminally ill the right to bring about their own peaceful death with the aid and consultation of their physician. Nearly all Hawaii voters believe that terminally ill individuals, not government, should make end-of-life decisions, control end-of-life options, and trust doctors to establish guidelines and respond appropriately.”
These are highlights of the poll:
• 77% favor allowing those who are dying of a terminal disease the choice to request and receive medication from their physician to bring about their peaceful death;
• 90% agree the decision about aid in dying is a personal one between patient and doctor;
• 87% believe people in the final stages of a terminal disease should have the right to bring about their peaceful death;
• 83% say the medical community rather than the government should establish proper guidelines and safeguards; and
• 81% trust their doctors to respond appropriately to a request for medication to bring about a peaceful death if suffering became unbearable.
A complete summary of poll results can be seen below. A PDF is available here.
Robert “Nate” Nathanson, M.D., a founder of Hospice Hawaii, believes that aid in dying is in line with current standards of medical care: “Most medical care is governed by practice standards. These include many practices that may advance the time of death,such as withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and palliative sedation. Patients make these difficult decisions every day in consultation with their doctors, their loved ones and their own consciences. Aid in dying is no different.”
Experts on Hawaii law, medicine, elder care, legislative and end-of-life issues have concluded Hawaii physicians may already provide aid in dying subject to professional best-practice standards.
For more information visit CompassionAndChoicesHI.org.