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Dying Cancer Patient Leads Suit Asserting Hawaii Law Allows Medical Aid in Dying

Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing and Compassion & Choices filed suit on Wednesday on behalf of a Hawaii resident with terminal cancer, John Radcliffe, and a physician asserting the Hawaii constitution and existing state law allow the practice of medical aid in dying. Medical aid in dying gives mentally competent, terminally ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for medication they can take to peacefully end an unbearable dying process peacefully.

Compassion & Choices Hawaii patient plaintiff John Radcliffe, attorney Anderson Meyer, pollster Barbara Ankersmit, Compassion & Choices Hawaii campaign mgr. Mary Steiner at news conference announcing lawsuit asserting Hawaii law allows medical aid in dying.

In conjunction with filing Radcliffe et al. v. State of Hawaii in the First Circuit Court of Hawaii, Compassion & Choices Hawaii has launched a legislative campaign as the second part of a dual approach to giving Hawaii residents definitive access to medical aid in dying. A bill is nearing final draft and will be announced at the opening of the Legislature on Jan. 18 with broad support from lawmakers.

A Nov. 2016 statewide survey by Anthology Marketing Group showed 80 percent of Hawaii voters support medical aid in dying, across all demographics including age, race, religion and geographic location. Six other states explicitly authorize aid in dying: Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, California and Colorado; there is not a single documented case of abuse or coercion.

“We must pursue every path to make medical aid in dying an accessible option for terminally ill adults in Hawaii as soon as possible,” said Compassion & Choices Hawaii Campaign Manager Mary Steiner. “Mr. Radcliffe can’t wait and see whether the courts or the legislature will ultimately resolve this question, but our hope is that this option will be made available to him as soon as possible. By filing litigation now, we have put the process in motion on all fronts.”

Compassion & Choices won a similar suit on behalf of terminally ill patient plaintiff Bob Baxter in Montana in 2009 when the Montana Supreme Court ruled: “… we find no indication in Montana law that physician aid in dying provided to terminally ill, mentally competent adult patients is against public policy.”

About the Plaintiffs

John Radcliffe, 74, is a resident of Honolulu, Hawaii. He was diagnosed in June 2014 with incurable colon cancer that has metastasized to his liver. He is currently undergoing his 43rd round of chemotherapy. He has been to the emergency room 15 times and had three extended hospital stays.

Dr. Charles Miller is board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, and hematology. He served for 30 years in the U.S. Army Medical Department, was chief consultant to the Surgeon General and spent nine years as chief of hematology at Kaiser Medical Center in Honolulu.

Compassion & Choices is the nation’s oldest, largest and most active nonprofit organization committed to improving care and expanding choice at the end of life. Leading the end-of-life choice movement for more than 30 years, we support, educate and advocate. www.CompassionAndChoices.org/hawaii.

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