A dear friend died. He took his own life.

He was terminally ill with ALS. His mind was crisp, logical, thoughtful and analytical as he dealt with his own demise. He had two unpleasant and final choices:

n To suffer slow, painful, terminal neuromuscular immobilization while bedridden and being unable to do nearly anything except wait to die (while his retirement funds rapidly disappeared to pay for interim medical care).

n To end the despair, the pain and the emotionally devastating wait to the end by himself, his friends and family.

He ended his own life because he had no alternative in Maine. Under the circumstances, it was the most incredible unselfish act.

In the state of Maine, end-of-life decisions do not include euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. One may sign directives telling the medical community not to extend your life, but one may not sign directives to assist in taking your life.

For legally assisted death, one must be a resident of Oregon, Montana, Vermont or Washington state. Each of these states has procedural safeguards in place. Other choices include several European countries or possibly Canada (proposed implementation in 12 months).

In the 46 states where assisted suicide is illegal, the criminal punishment can be up to 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine (Minnesota) – not to mention the loss of one’s medical license and insurance. Legal in Oregon, possible prison in Minnesota – what a paradox!

Death with dignity laws allow terminally ill but mentally competent adults who want to end their lives to do so with prescription medicines that hasten death. Violent suicides and long-term pain and suffering can be avoided.

In our country, great value is given to living a dignified life. The same value should apply to dying with dignity.

Bob Knecht

South Freeport