Medical aid in dying shows progress
The Our Care, Our Choice Act (OCOCA) has been in effect only a few short months. Yet thanks to careful preparation by the state Department of Health (DOH) and a robust education campaign, Hawaii’s health-care providers are making tremendous progress implementing the new law, which gives eligible terminally ill patients the option of medication they can take to die peacefully in their sleep should their suffering become unbearable.
Perhaps not surprisingly though, in January we saw initial reports indicating that few doctors would support their patients who might decide to use the law; that no pharmacies were willing or able to fill the prescription; and that the medication itself was not available. Federally funded insurance (VA and Medicare) does not cover the cost of the medication, and it seemed uncertain whether Medicaid would cover it.
What a difference 20 weeks make. While the DOH’s first annual report is not due until July 1, anecdotal reports tell us that the law is being successfully accessed by patients statewide. Aid-in-dying medication is available and can be picked up at any of the participating compounding pharmacies, or sent via certified mail anywhere in the state to a registered recipient who has qualified. The state’s Med-QUEST program covers the cost of the medication as does most private insurance.
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