Local Faith Leaders Remind Healthcare Professionals They Can Opt-Out of Assisted Suicide

(New Signers Added) June 11 , 2019

Several key faith-based leaders sent an “Letter to Healthcare Professionals” to the Honolulu Star Advertiser on Sunday May 25th, after the Honolulu Star Advertiser printed an article reporting on the suicide of three people in Hawaii’s community. The letter, published on June 2, 2019, included only include three signatures because of newspaper guidelines.

The faith leaders below (total of 55 as of June 11) are reminding healthcare professionals that the best choice is compassion by providing good end of life care. This great end of life care includes promoting access to palliative care and hospice care. Local faith-leaders are taking a proactive response to the new law which took effect on January 1, 2019 by addressing people of faith.

Read the full letter here.

[Letter as printed]

On Jan. 1, 2019, the Our Care, Our Choice Act became law in Hawaii, legalizing physician-assisted suicide. This new law allows adult Hawaii residents with a diagnosed terminal disease to request that their attending provider prescribe a lethal dose of medication for the purpose of ending their lives. It was announced in the media on May 26 that at least three people have now used the law to take their own lives.

Many organizations, including the American Medical Association, oppose physician-assisted suicide and have expressed concern that it has no place in an ethical practice of medicine.

“Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks” (AMA Principles of Medical Ethics I, IV).

In the face of grave illness, healthcare workers are called to provide compassionate care. Good hospice and palliative care are indispensable modalities when patients and their families are faced with serious disease to provide relief from pain and dignity to the patient.

The supposed “safeguards” in the Hawaii law are not enough to prevent serious abuse to elderly and vulnerable patients. For example, the required mental health evaluation is limited to a single counseling session for the purpose of determining if the patient is “capable” and not suffering from an undertreatment of depression; it may even be provided by a social worker via telehealth. The law further requires that the lethal prescription not be listed as the cause of death on the death certificate, which seems fraudulent.

Fortunately, you do have the right to OPT OUT of assisting patients in committing suicide. There is a conscience clause in the statute that states:

“No health care provider or health care facility shall be under any duty, whether by contract, statute, or any other legal requirement, to participate in the provision to a qualified patient of a prescription or of a medication to end the qualified patient’s life pursuant to this chapter.”

So we say all of the following to physicians, nurses, pharmacists, health care and social workers: If you refuse to participate in assisted suicide, no professional organization or association, health-care provider or facility, is allowed to penalize you.

There is also no requirement for you to find another provider for the patient if they are requesting assisted suicide. You only need to transfer any pertinent medical records to the new provider.

If a patient with a terminal disease asks about assisted suicide, this provides an opportunity for you to discuss other options in the hope of enriching their lives. Such discussions include treatments based on proportionate benefits as opposed to the burdens, which include discomfort, risk, and expense of the treatment in question.

It is important for you to discern the type of healthcare that you will provide to your fragile patients at their end of lives. Authentic care for human beings dictates that you opt out of assisted suicide and instead cherish life. Proponents will tell you that it is a matter of personal choice, but that “choice” can easily slip into a societal expectation; it can change our view of our kupuna from being honored elders and into one of seeing them merely as a burden to be eliminated.

Presumably you did not become a health-care provider to assist your patients in killing themselves.

Please let your patients know that you will not be providing lethal doses of drugs, but will treat them with respect and the good medical care and pain management that they deserve.

(Faith-based leaders will be continuing to sign this letter.  If you are a pastor and/or leader in your religious community and would like to be added, email us.)


Elwin Ahu
Sr. Pastor, Metro Christian Church

Fr. Lane Akiona
Pastor, St. Augustine Church by the Sea

Perry Alexander
Pastor, Kailua Community Church

Pastor Taavao Alualu
Solid Rock Fellowship

Apostle Jay Amina Sr
Ark of Safety Christian Fellowship

Pastor Bryan Ashpole
Honolulu Assembly of God

Pastor Mililani Bair
The Village Church – Volcano Assembly of God

Pastor Farley Bayudan
City of Joy Church

Allen Cardines, Jr.
Pastor, Nanaikapono Protestant Church

Pastors Horace & Talei Chee-Manuia
First Assembly of God

Pastor Sam Cockett
First Assembly of God

Pastor Melvin Corpuz
First Assembly of God

Rev. Mark J. Gantley
Judicial Vicar, Catholic Diocese of Honolulu

Bro. Steven Gladman
Wahiawa Assembly of God

Pastor Edgar Hanohano
Palisades Community Chapel

Pastor Lynne Higa
First Assembly of God Hamakua

Russell Higa
Pastor, Streams of Life Fellowship

Pastor Matt Hilpert
Saint Mark Lutheran Church and School

Dr. Greg Hood, Th.D.
Apostle, Kingdom Life Church, Kailua, Hawaii

Rev. Thomas P Joseph
St. Pius X Church

Patrick J. Killilea ss.cc.
Pastor, St. Francis, Kalaupapa

Fr. Young Kun Kim
Chaplain of Korean Catholic Community

Pastor Klayton Ko
Superintendent, Hawaii Assemblies of God

Pastors Darryl & Elizabeth Kua
Westside Christian Center

Andrew Large
Senior Pastor, Waikiki Baptist Church

Rick Lazor
Pastor, OlaNui!

Rev. Dongmin Li
Pastor of St Theresa Catholic Church, Mt. View

Fr. Stephen A. Macedo
Pastor, Annunciation Parish

Fr. Patrick McDaid, S.M.
Vice President of Mission, Saint Louis School

Fr. Richard McNally ss.cc.
St. Ann Church , Kaneohe

Pastor Derek Nakata
Cedar Assembly of God

Fr. Rheo Ofalsa
Pastor, Holy Family Church

Father Arnold Ortiz
Pastor, St. Elizabeth Parish, Aiea

Fr. Michael J. Owens
Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu

Pastor Arlene Pilapil
Kona Coast Assembly of God 

John A. Rogers
Senior Pastor, Door of Faith

Pastor Joshua Schneider
Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Kahului

Monsignor Gary Secor
Vicar General, Diocese of Honolulu, Roman Catholic Church

Pastor Damien Shrinski
Kurtistown Assembly of God

Bishop Larry Silva
Diocese of Honolulu, Roman Catholic Church

Pastor Raymond So
First Assembly of God

Fr. Martin A. Solma, SM
Chaplain, Chaminade University of Honolulu

Rev. Dr. Jonathan Steeper
Senior Pastor, Kalihi Union Church

Bill Stonebraker
Senior Pastor, Calvary Chapel of Honolulu

Barbara Tengan
Pastor, Faith in Jesus Church Maui

Pastor Tex Texeira
Solid Rock North Church

Pastor John Trusdell
Living Waters

Pastor Jimmy Yamada
Cedar Assembly of God

Jeff & Barbara Yamashita
Co-Pastors, Waianae Assembly of God

Pastor Donald Yoshida, Jr.
Bethany Assembly of God

Rev. Jed D.Y. Young
Kapaa Missionary Church

Rev. Msgr. Terrence A. M. Watanabe
St. Theresa Church, Kihei