– The Hawaii Senate gave its support of an assisted suicide bill that critics believe would put vulnerable people at risk and change the nature of medicine.

“Physicians are seen as trusted health advisors, and this bill undermines this relationship, creating suspicion and uncertainty for Hawaii’s patients,” said Deacon Walter Yoshimitsu, executive director of the Hawaii Catholic Conference.

“The Senate’s approval of assisted suicide ignores the tremendous strides we have made as a community to promote the value of hospice and palliative care to care for those with terminal illnesses and to ensure everyone has access to quality end of life care.”

Deacon Yoshimitsu said the Catholic conference has worked to uphold the sanctity of life.

“Those in favor of assisted suicide have framed this as an issue about individual autonomy and freedom of choice, when it fact it is nothing more than a veiled attempt to make it legal for physicians to murder their patients with immunity,” he said.

The bill, modeled on an Oregon law, presents itself as an “aid in dying” bill. It would allow adults who have a prognosis of six months or fewer to live to ask for a fatal prescription of drugs. It passed by a vote of 22-3 on March 7.

State Sen. Breene Harimoto voted against the proposed bill. He spoke about facing his possible death after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and said he was glad he did not have the option to take pills to kill himself when he was at a low point of pain and suffering, the Associated Press reports.

“Life is a precious gift,” he said. “No matter how bad things may seem to be, that sense of hope is what keeps us all going. And unexplained miracles happen.”

State Sen. Rosalyn Baker, a backer of the bill, said it gave people the choice in how they would die.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for debate in committee.

Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu wrote in a January 31 letter to the Catholics of Hawaii linking assisted suicide to the “throwaway culture” criticized by Pope Francis.

Eva Andrade, president of the Hawaii Family Forum, said there was “strong opposition” to the assisted suicide bill and the number of testimonies submitted against the bill “far exceeded” those in favor.

“We are perplexed why the concerns raised by individuals over the adverse impact such a law would have on Hawaii’s people are being dismissed by some members of the House and Senate. Yet, we remain prayerfully optimistic. Hawaii’s legislative session does not end until early May, and we will continue to closely monitor these bills and mobilize the community.”

She said Hawaii has one of the fastest-growing older adult populations in the U.S. She charged that the bill would allow elder abuse if it becomes law.

Five U.S. states presently allow assisted suicide.