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Testimony in Support of SB 1129, Hawaii Medical Aid in Dying Act

February 28, 2017

This is a transcript, lightly edited for clarity, of the written testimony to the Hawaii State Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor in support of SB 1129 submitted by Betts Cruz, a resident of Molokai.


This is the face of Death with Dignity:

This is a photo of my sister Nancy, my vibrant, healthy sister Nancy, taken just prior to her finding out she had the beginning onset of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). She was living in California at the time and wanted to come to Hawaii. However, she chose to move back to Vermont where her children had been born and primarily so that our retired sister Marnie could care for her.

After medical confirmation of ALS, Nancy knew she wanted and needed to return to Oregon, where her children lived. In 2008 she returned so that she could take advantage of the state’s Oregon Death with Dignity Act. Once there, we as her family rallied around her and rented a home near her son. Our whole family and circle of friends, along with Compassion & Choices, hospice and the ALS society made her final months on this earth a learning lesson for all involved.

Oregon’s law is thorough and complete. My sister was able to have control over the most important thing at the end of life: to say when, where and with whom she chose to leave this earth and enter Heaven above.

If you or a loved one end up having medical issues that are incurable and your doctors agree that you have a terminal illness with less than 6 months to live, why not as an individual have the choice to select how and when we die?

After months of supportive planning and following the appropriate procedures in Oregon, we as a family were able to be with Nancy as she prepared for a peaceful death. She chose the backyard on a Sunday in April, with the sun shining and her children and family around her. She swallowed the contents of the prescribed medication and went into a sleep-like coma. Her wish was for us to dance and blow bubbles, sending her off with love. This happened from many points across the US once we knew she had crossed over.

Nancy’s family and friends embraced her decision, supporting her because of the love and respect we all had for her. Nancy had led a life full of love and giving and we wondered why she was taken from us at such an early age. Her life and our story helped change the law in Vermont and we hope to get it accomplished here in Hawaii.

This is such an important right for each one of us. Oregon has set the standard for its thorough process. For some folks just knowing the law is in place is enough, for others it might be having the written prescription. For some filling the prescription and having it on hand is sufficient. Others who, like my sister, know they do not want to be on a ventilator or a feeding tube are able to choose and have the right and freedom to die at home, on their own terms. For my sister this was vitally important. For our family it continues to be an extremely important right of choice for us, our children and our children’s children. This is such an important issue. Please pass the bill.

Mahalo for your time and energy moving this legislation forward.

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