End-of-Life Care Group Lauds Department of Health, Facilities and Provider Achievements in Preparing for Medical Aid-in-Dying Law
Terminal Patient Becomes First to Request Prescription Under Law
With Hawaii’s Our Care, Our Choice Act in effect as of January 1, Compassion & Choices Hawai‘i at a press conference today applauded the Hawai‘i Department of Health for its statewide preparation and supportive guidance for providers and patients. Compassion & Choices also applauds provider groups, pharmacies and medical facilities for their efforts in setting good policy to support patients who choose to make a request for a prescription under the law and to support for doctors who choose to honor their patients’ end-of-life choices.
Signed into law on April 5, 2018 by Governor David Ige, the Our Care, Our Choice Act authorizes medical aid in dying as an end-of-life care option to end unbearable suffering. It is the medical practice which gives terminally ill adults with a prognosis of six months or less to live and who are mentally capable of making their own healthcare decisions the option of requesting from their doctor a prescription for medication to die peacefully in their sleep.
Kat West, national director of policy & programming for Compassion & Choices, which has been conducting a statewide, multi-lingual, volunteer-led Access Campaign since the law was signed, said, “I’m pleased to report that Hawai‘i is ahead of most other states at this stage of the law’s implementation. Already numerous medical provider education events have occurred and more are planned for doctors and other providers; and most healthcare systems/facilities are adopting policies of engaged neutrality that honors patient end-of-life decision-making.” She added, “We encourage residents, no matter which island they reside on, to have conversations with their doctors now about whether their doctor would support them if they were to become terminally ill and request medical aid in dying. We know from experience it is the only way that residents can ensure that they will get the care they want at the end of life.”
The Hawai‘i Department of Health website provides a patient request form and doctor guidelines, emphasizing the importance of enrolling in hospice as part of end-of-life care. The department website also links to Compassion & Choices’ comprehensive resources for Hawai‘i residents and providers. The Compassion & Choices Hawai‘i website will soon contain a Find Care Tool, the only public resource listing all the medical facilities, medical groups and hospices that have adopted a policy supportive of patient end-of-life choice.
Dr. Charles Miller, board certified physician in internal medicine, medical oncology, and hematology, announced that he will serve as medical aid-in-dying attending physician for Kaiser Permanente Hawai‘i patients through the end of the year and will mentor colleagues on this compassionate end-of-life medical practice. Kaiser has also created a patient navigator role and contracted with a psychologist to give a mandatory third mental health consultation required only by Hawaii’s law.
Terminal cancer patient and medical aid-in-dying advocate John Radcliffe, a Kaiser member who was instrumental in getting the law passed last year, today went on record as Hawaii’s first individual to request a prescription for aid-in-dying medication under the new law. “I don’t know when, or even if, I’ll use it. I’m just so thankful that my doctors and my hospital system are honoring my decision and helping me navigate the process,” he said. “I realize it might not be as smooth a process for many of my fellow Hawai‘i residents who are dying. I intend to use my remaining days to help ensure access for those who need it.”
Several current and former lawmakers who championed the issue were in attendance, with remarks by Representative Della Au Belatti.
About the Compassion & Choices Hawai‘i Access Campaign
Compassion & Choices has over 20 years of experience helping states successfully implement medical aid-in-dying laws. Its multi-lingual Hawai‘i Access Campaign is a volunteer-led effort to educate the community, healthcare professionals, health systems and hospices to ensure terminally ill adults in Hawai‘i have access to the new law. To date:
- The Campaign has provided hospital and hospice systems statewide with sample policy templates that can be customized to each system.
- For healthcare professionals, the resource www.compassionandchoices.org/hawaii features Doc2Doc and Pharmacist2Pharmacist consultation services and training videos.
- For healthcare consumers, the website features a video for residents explaining medical aid in dying, fact sheets and other important resources in English, Japanese, Tagalog, Ilocano, Mandarin, Hawaiian and Korean.
The Campaign will continue to:
- Support local public outreach & education teams on each island;
- Provide free education and materials for doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other healthcare providers including webinars, videos and Doc2Doc consultation calls;
- Provide technical and policy assistance to hospitals, clinics, hospice facilities and pharmacies statewide; and
- Work with government agencies, medical associations and other ancillary organizations to ensure broad understanding of the law and meaningful access for those who need it.