In Hawaii, a group of five doctors is pushing the envelope on medically-assisted death. Led by retired general practitioner Dr. Robert “Nate” Nathanson, the physicians plan to prescribe lethal drugs to help terminally ill patients end their lives. This is despite the opinion issued by the state’s attorney general, who said he would bring manslaughter charges against any doctor assisting with suicide.
Dr. Nathanson is defiant:
That’s the thing – I’m retired. I think the worst that would happen is that they’d take my license away. I don’t think I’m going to put in any jail time … My livelihood doesn’t depend on it, so I can be very brave.
Physician-assisted suicide is legal in two states, Washington and Oregon. In Montana, the state supreme court ruled in 2009 that physicians who engage in the practice are exempt from homicide charges, though the lack of further legislation has left the issue in legal limbo.
The American Medical Association opposes assisted suicide, claiming it is “fundamentally inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer.” The Hawaii Medical Association has a similar view, and has fought attempts to legalize the practice in the state. At least 39 states have laws that implicitly or explicitly criminalize physician-assisted death.
It appears that all that is needed in Hawaii to push this agenda forward is a test case.