A Conversation About Aid In Dying In Hawaii

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

Every few years the Hawaii Legislature considers — and invariably rejects — legislation establishing physician-assisted suicide, also know as "death with dignity."

The measures have primarily been opposed by religious groups, particularly the Catholic Church.

But Hawaii's population is aging, and growing in size. The tremendous challenge of dealing with an ailing loved one was tragically illustrated just last week in the murder-suicide of an elderly Hawaii couple.

A group called Compassion & Choices is taking a different approach to end-of-life decisions, one that could bypass the legislative process but does involve the courts and the state and federal governments. The "aid-in-dying movement," also called "choice in dying," seeks to transform medical practices regarding end-of-life issues.

Barbara Coombs Lee is president of Compassion & Choices, which has its primary offices in Portland, Ore., Denver, Colo., and Washington, D.C. It also has regional offices in other states, including Hawaii.

Civil Beat spoke with Coombs Lee, 64, on Friday, when she was completing a series of public forums in the islands to talk about Oregon's 14-year history with a Death with Dignity law, and holding an end-of-life choice seminar.

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