Proposed in the 128th Maine Legislature is a bill concerned with dignity in death for terminally ill patients. L.D. 347 is designed to allow physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to assist a patient who has been deemed terminal, allowing for the patient to end their life on their terms without the anguish associated with a slow, painful and often burdensome death.

The bill states that a patient must make three requests for assistance: The first two must be made in person and at least 15 days apart, and the third must be one day after the second request. The second request must be in the presence of two other adults who are not “interested parties”: meaning they cannot be caregivers, family or administrators for the medical facility.

Additionally, the patient must be diagnosed as being terminal with no more than six months left to live and without impaired cognitive judgment.

Although I strongly believe this bill should be passed, it falls short in its goals by limiting access by those who are declining cognitively and by placing significant barriers on a person whose physical health is falling.

Some might argue that this bill is immoral by allowing a person to effectively commit suicide. I argue, however, that the higher moral ground would be to increase access to more populations, limit steps needed to meet the threshold and to address the nullification of life insurance policies through suicide.

This bill is a good start, but it does a disservice to Mainers because it does not go far enough. More is needed to provide dignity in death to the terminally ill.

Mary Beth Walters

Portland