by Andrew Walden
Concerned citizens got a surprise when they gathered Thursday in the Legislative Auditorium to hear from physicians and attorneys worried that assisted suicide activists are taking aim at what one disability rights activist terms “people like me.”
Joining panelists such as Catholic Bishop Larry Silva and the program's moderator, Hawaii Family Forum’s Allen Cardines, was Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairwoman Colette Machado. Machado, who represents Molokai and Kalaupapa as a Trustee, didn’t hold back:
“Nowhere in history there will be two saints (as on) the small peninsula of Kalaupapa. I’m just giving you this image of Hawaii the 50th State … we nominated two heroic individuals—every state nominates two people for Statuary Hall. The first that was nominated was Father Damien and the second was King Kamehameha in his full regalia ….
“So when you look back at the history of Hawaii—and I want to hit it hard--as a native Hawaiian how can I accept that this will be a (suicide) state like Oregon and Washington? And I only want to hit it harder. The fact that we’re going to have two saints from the small island of Molokai and the peninsula of Kalaupapa. (The caregiving that went to the patients at Kalaupapa) … should go a long way as far as the value of what kind of state we have.”
Setting the stage, local attorney Jim Hochberg described his research into recent claims by suicide activists that a 1909 Hawaii Territory law allows suicide. Suicide activists have been trying to amend the 1909 for over a decade before suddenly—with the help of the suicide cheerleaders at the Star-Advertiser—deciding that the law means assisted suicide has been legal for all these years without anybody noticing. Taking the suicide activists’ sudden about face to task, Hochberg describes what he found:
If you’ve been listening in the news in October and then in November, locally, you’re aware of the fact that a lawyer from the Pacific Northwest by the name of Kathryn Tucker came into town … at that October 5 panel discussion Kathryn Tucker presented her legal position her opinion that physician-assisted suicide has been legal in the State of Hawaii and the Territory of Hawaii since 1909. Wow, and I said to myself, why has our legislature been wrestling with that if they were only as smart as she was and figured that out.
So I walked from my office on Bishop Street to the Supreme Court Library which is behind the King Kamehameha Statue on King Street and I spent a coupe of hours looking a the 1909 legislative history which maybe would have been difficult for her to do since she doesn’t live here and … but certainly any other attorney living here could have helped her to do that.
I was actually shocked to find out that her quote from an amendment to the Territory of Hawaii definition of the practice of medicine was being used to legitimize physician assisted suicide in Hawaii today.
The Statute in 1909 describes the what the practice of medicine was and required a license to do those things. And if you didn’t have a license to do those things that were considered the practice of medicine you could be prosecuted for a violation of the law. And if you think back to 1909, in the Territory of Hawaii, there were three deadly diseases: Leprosy, Tuberculosis, and Asthma…. The Legislature in the Territory in 1909 was struggling with what to do with the non-physicians in the Territory of Hawaii who were able to treat and remedy terminally ill patients with those three specific diseases so that they could render aid and not be subject to the Legislature referred to at that time as the indignity of prosecution and persecution.…
So there was a bill that became Act 133 in the 1909 Legislature. Adding to the definition of the practice of medicine, a phrase which is pretty long, but I’ll paraphrase it. It says, “although this is the practice of medicine--that you have to have a medical license to do these things—it says provided however that nothing in this requirement that you have a license to do these services that are called the practice of medicine…. Nothing in the statute would forbid a person to use any method for the application of any remedial agent or measure where the physician had given a certificate to the patient that their symptoms of one of those three diseases had reached the point that medical science in 1909 was unable to do anything else about it.
If your doctor gave you that certificate, then nothing would be construed to forbid a person—not a physician, a non-physician—a person from giving or furnishing any remedial agent or measure when so requested by or on behalf of the afflicted person. So we’re talking about non-physicians doing things after the physician were unable to do anything else. And what the non-physicians were doing was furnishing a remedial agent or remedial measure. So neither of those things included ending the life—that’s not a remedy.
And so, I thought to myself, well, Legislatures always have committees and they always have committee reports and I wonder what the committee report on this particular bill was. And lo and behold they did actually committee report #97 on the Committee on Public Health for Senate Bill 86 which became Act 133. It’s very short, just four paragraphs. And they say in there: “The object of the bill being to give those afflicted with Leprosy, Asthma, and Tuberculosis the opportunity of availing themselves of any hope of relief which might be offered without subjecting those willing to render them aid to the indignities of prosecution or persecution.”
That doesn’t sound like ending life. And then they go on to explain. We know many instances where the professional medical had given up hope and the ‘insignificant and apparently ignorant herb man’ saves the abandoned patient. He didn’t kill the abandoned patient, he saved the abandoned patient.
So that particular bill that was being cited October 5th and in November and just a week ago in the newspaper as legal support for the proposition that physician assisted suicide has been legal in Hawaii since 1909 just won’t. And it’s sad that the proponents either will not do the homework or maybe even do the homework and not care.
The second thing that I wanted to share along with that is at the same time Bill 86 which became Act 133 was going through the process, it was actually held up in the committee process so that another bill could be dealt with at the exact same time. And so I went and looked into that bill, it was very interesting. There was a bill in the 1909 Territorial Legislature asking the question if a Leprosy hospital should be paid for by the Territorial Legislature to be constructed in Honolulu. And the reason that got held up was it required that the legislators and the Department of Health officials and the appropriate community leaders take a trip to Maui County and hold public hearings on Molokai, Lanai, and Maui. Which they did.
And the session laws for that session include a … report on the trip to Maui County to have these hearings. And they talk about where the meetings were held, who came to the meetings, what the questions were , what the requests were, what the concerns were , what it would cost to implement each one of those various requests and that was the report that was brought back to the Territorial Legislature to be dealt with at the same time as the amendment to the practice of medicine was being decided.
And I read the whole 23-I think-page report on that trip. There was not one mention of anybody wanting to be killed or to commit suicide. It was all about how do we improve the lives of the people that are suffering in Maui County with the diseases. They wanted more meat. They wanted more fresh eggs. They wanted more things of life. There wasn’t one mention in there at all about ending life.
Following Hochberg, Machado told the audience of 80 that assisted suicide proposals imported from Oregon and Washington State were hostile to Hawaiian cultural values and that Hawaiians would no longer be excluded from the debate. Here’s some of what she said:
“This year, native Hawaiians have been recognized by the State of Hawaii. … So if there’s a process that will include opportunity to take a policy look at native Hawaiians evolution here, we would certainly have a lot to say over this matter….
“I really want to emphasize that if you do not have a strong policy for native Hawaiians and how they view this perspective and I can tell you culturally, it is an insult to say that we don’t care about life. For us that is so important. A lot of our efforts are culturally based so if we become more prominent in how we express ourselves, since there have been a renewal since the early 1970s….
“…Native Hawaiians have been excluded from this process…. How come that happened? I’m just trying to get that balanced more properly so that you can get the kind of statistics, so that you can get what we call native intelligence as part of this dialogue….
“Without the host culture—because some of the non-natives are attempting to question our role here in Hawaii….
“You cannot move forward without an analysis or participation from native Hawaiians. And I’m willing to lead that sub-committee and bring forth that expertise so we can research the 1909 law …. ”
I want to tell you about pain and suffering. In Kalaupapa, I served on the patients’ council called Ka ‘Ohana o Kalaupapa…. When you talk to the survivors that are there now, they look back on the whole 5,000 native people that died in Kalaupapa – and one of our biggest emphasis’ over the last five years was to build a monument to their honor. You can never overlook these things as far as death coming, being exiled – its called the sickness of separation….
I can only emphasize that Hawaiians love life and we were the most Christian nation as converts during the era after Kamehameha died. And there is this love of not just the land and there’s a respect that comes with being touched by the Lord. But with that comes a higher level of caring, of kuleana.…
Native Hawaiians going to play one big role in how you move and we need to create an active committee ….
We believe that this is such a big issue that we need to expand and broaden the base to get that kind of analysis done so that a policy could be enacted as part of our movement forward…. We’re talking about native Hawaiians. And we haven’t asked those questions on the grassroots level….
A deeper analysis can be included in the work you’re doing acknowledging the role of native Hawaiians and their history and their contribution and their love for life.
Language is what the individual felt when we started the language schools because without the language we hala (or we die). Can you imagine what the culture is, the connection between one another?
Machado was challenged by pro-suicide writer Robert Orfali who was in the audience. Here is the exchange:
Colette Machado -- “As a native people that can trace their genealogy generation to generation … why would I want, as a native Hawaiian to allow this (assisted suicide). In this (legislative) round native Hawaiians want to have a say because this is our homeland. We are not Oregon and we are not the State of Washington. This is Hawai`i. And this is what I’m saying, as an aboriginal, native people who have been recognized. We want a contribution to this. It is not OK for you (pro-suicide activists) to say, (the) 1909 law reflects that this (assisted suicide) is something that we can do today and you’re going to test it. I will tell you, we will establish a panel of expert native Hawaiians, I will tell you this is not over yet, sir. This is Hawai`i. We don’t want to be known as assisted suicide, I will tell you that from my na’au, as a Native Hawaiian at the appropriate time when the analysis is done, that’s what you’re going to be hearing at the engagement because we do not want to be known as Oregon and as Washington. And I say that to you eyeball to eyeball, sir.
Robert Orfali -- Excuse me, we are discussing the law here, right?
CM -- I am a native Hawaiian and this is Hawai`i and I stand against what you want.
RO -- Other people…
CM -- That’s all I’m saying as a Native Hawaiian ….
RO -- If you look at the statistics in Hawaii 51% of the people…
CM -- Whatever, sir, we’re going to get our own statistics.
RO -- Statistics are basic statistics so there area majority of people in Hawaii who are for it ….
CM -- I look at Kalaupapa at the thousands of my people (who) died the way they did. So don’t talk to me about that … This is Hawaii and I am the original people here. Go back to Oregon. Go back to Washington.
In closing, Machado urged participants to speak out during the legislative session:
I am also a believer in working … the Senate and the House because these legislative mandates will dictate how people interpret the policy….
And I’m not sure why every year, every biennium legislative session we’re back doing the same thing from 1998. That blue ribbon committee that was established by Governor Cayetano. I was here in this chamber when the vote was taken. And it was so close. Find a champion, and gather as much as you can and speak life in the hallways here. Strengthen your family and lets kick some butt here.
HICATV Video: Live Broadcast Tonight 7pm – 9pm from the State Capitol “Assisted Living” (to be posted soon)
HFF: Panel of Experts at Capitol Denounce Physician-Assisted Suicide