BANGOR – Terminally-ill adult Mainers now have the right to chose how they die and can use doctor-prescribed medications if they want.
Maine is the ninth state to pass a “Death with Dignity” law, and the new legislation was enacted in September.
It has raised a lot of questions. So many so that a Bangor law firm has posted a blog: “Maine’s Death with Dignity Act: What you need to know.” The post answers seven questions.
“They’re all answers that are pretty clearly laid out in the statute,” said Tracy Collins, attorney for Rudman and Winchell and blog author.
The blog talks about coercion and how the new law protects patients, if people outside of Maine can qualify and even basics about how to create the paperwork. Emergency rules are in place in Maine until January, when the legislature is expected to take up the task of fine-tuning them.
“The law itself has some very helpful essentially fail-safes to make sure that this law is doing what it was supposed to do,” Collins said.
“One of the biggest concerns with the statue is making sure that the patient that is making the decision to proceed with physician-assisted death is doing do with a sound mind and without any sort of external pressure or coercion,” the Bangor attorney said. “One very unique aspect of the statue is that it includes multiple fail-safes to make sure that decision is well-grounded.”
She added later, “With respect to the written request that needs to be submitted, like I said, there is no magic language to use but right within the statue they have a word-for-word template.”
Maine State Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick, who is a physician, was one of the sponsors of the bill.
“Are they going to die from some nasty, very painful disease … or are they going to be able to die in a way that’s more under their control,” Gratwick said in June.
Questions remain about what drugs will be used, costs, and which doctors will participate.
“The process is very involved and there are multiple points throughout the process where folks can change their minds, even up to once the medication has been prescribed and dispensed,” Collins said.
“It’s up to the patient … If and when to take that,” she added.