State Senate defeat slows 'compassion' juggernaut, Christian groups say. Opponents of physician-assisted suicide breathed a sigh of relief when a Hawaii bill, patterned after Oregon's assisted-suicide law, was narrowly defeated May 2. The bill, halted by a 14–11 vote in the state Senate, would have allowed terminally ill patients to request fatal doses of pain medications. Oregon is the only state with such a law.

Gov. Ben Cayetano introduced the bill, which the state House approved in March. Kelly Rosati, executive director of the Hawaii Family Forum, says the vote represents a setback for advocates of physician- assisted suicide in other states. "[I hope] we put a halt to a potential juggernaut," she told Christianity Today. "The momentum of a victory in Hawaii would have propelled their movement forward across the mainland."

Roland Halpern, executive director of Compassion in Dying of Hawaii, says he was "appreciative that the debate has come this far. All we were hoping for was a fair hearing, and I think we got one." A similar bill introduced during Hawaii's 1999 legislative session was also defeated. The Hawaii bill closely mirrors a 1997 Oregon law that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft challenged in November. Since the measure became law, 91 Oregonians have died after taking large doses of medications prescribed by their doctors. Ashcroft issued a policy prohibiting doctors from prescribing lethal doses of federally controlled drugs to dying patients. Ashcroft said the Oregon law violates the Controlled Substances Act. Ashcroft's order effectively blocked the law in Oregon, but U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones ruled in April that Ashcroft had exceeded his authority. Assistant Attorney General Robert McCallum said the Department of Justice is considering its legal options.

Opponents of physician-assisted suicide say they will keep their guard up. "It's not about giving people the right to die," David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, told ct. "It's about giving doctors the right to kill. They become judge, jury, and assistant executioner."

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.