The Maine Senate voted 16-15 to legalize physician-assisted suicide, on May 18, 2017.
The bill, LD 347 – An Act to Support Death with Dignity, would allow those who are terminally ill and have the mental capacity to endure the two-week process, to end their lives with the assistance of a qualified physician. A similar bill passed in the Maine House in 2015, but marginally failed in the Senate, 18-17.
Republican Sen. Roger Katz is sponsoring the assisted-suicide legislation and told the Senate:
It’s about personal dignity. It’s about self-determination and it’s about the right to choose one’s own path, not the path that others might choose for you. It’s our life.
Democratic Sen. Geoff Gratwick is a physician. He gave a personal testimony in support of LD 347. Referring to a patient, he stated:
That death has always stuck with me. I’m voting for this because I think I could have done much better for this man, who was both my patient and my friend.
The opposition is concerned that patients, who could live longer lives, will opt for physician-assisted suicide. Republican Sen. Amy Volk expressed the law is “too dangerous for the state of Maine.” Other senators have said they cannot support the bill due to religious or moral reasons. This legislation seems to be stalled for personal reasons, not based on research or the desires of Maine citizens.
Constituents have reached out to their senators suggesting physician-assisted suicide would save money for the families, insurance companies, and the government. However, it seems they are not being heard.
On May 23, the Maine House of Representatives voted down the bill, 85-61. Opponents of the legislation claim the legalization of physician-assisted suicide would normalize the idea in the state and raise the suicide rate. There were those in the House that also cited religious beliefs. Republican Rep. Roger Reed said:
There is no life on Earth without pain and suffering. Life is a gift from God regardless of its circumstances.
LD 347 The Act to Support Death With Dignity Requirements
- patient must verbally inform the doctor of the desire to end his/her life and do it again 15 days later;
- the physician is obligated to allow the patient to withdraw this request;
- after the second request is made by the patient to the doctor, the patient must put their desire in writing and have the declaration signed by two witnesses;
- the physician is required to perform a physical examination of the patient and review medical records to determine if the patient is capable of making an informed decision;
- patient records must include documentation of the two verbal requests to end his/her life;
- the opportunity to rescind the request from the doctor;
- evidence the patient has been given verbal and written information about the medical diagnosis, prognosis, treatment options, any end-of-life services the patient is receiving, all possible and probable results of physician-assisted suicide;
- a second opinion on diagnosis and prognosis;
- the requesting physician must have a consult with the patient’s primary care doctor concerning the end-of-life decision.
The physician must sign a statement of consent to submit a prescription to a pharmacist. The medication is dispensed to the patient and he/she may self-administer the lethal dose. This physician is not required to participate in the act.
Health care facilities may adopt a policy that prohibits physician-assisted suicide. Therefore, it would not be an option for patients in these facilities.
California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Montana, and Washington, D.C. have legalized physician-assisted suicide. Nevertheless, federal law prohibits euthanasia and assisted suicide under homicide laws.
According to the senior adviser of the Final Exit Network, Faye Girsh, EdD, forcing people to suffer is as much a crime as murder. This statement is refuted by Rita Marker, executive director of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. She claims laws against these acts are designed to protect patients from unscrupulous people and were never intended to make anyone suffer.
Euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide has been accepted since the 5th century in Rome and Greece. The primary concern for the patient should be their quality of life. Healthcare in the U.S. is primarily disease-centered, not patient-focused. Insurance companies force doctors to see patients in 15-minute segments, forcing them to treat symptoms and not improve the patient’s quality of life.
Merriam-Webster defines euthanasia as permitting the death of the hopelessly sick or injured in a painless way for reasons of mercy. The keywords are “hopelessly” and “mercy.” Euthanasia offers capable, terminally ill human beings a way to say goodbye to their families and end their own lives with peace and dignity. It also allows families peaceful closure without watching a loved one suffer through the deterioration of an illness.
By Jeanette Smith
Bangor Daily News: Physician-assisted suicide gains Maine Senate OK but is unlikely to be enacted
Bangor Daily News: Maine House votes against physician-assisted suicide
Sate of Maine Legislature: Summary of LD 347
Euthanasia ProCon: State-by-State Guide to Physician-Assisted Suicide
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Surian Soosay’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License