L.D. 1270, “An Act Regarding Patient-directed Care at the End of Life,” provides a safe, compassionate choice in the following ways:

 It is not for a person with a normal life expectancy; it’s for adults at the end stage of illness who want a prescription to hasten their death.

 It establishes a process to follow that includes assessments by two physicians, waiting periods, verbal and written requests and time to consider and reconsider this option.

 It protects vulnerable persons. Persons requesting medication to end their suffering must have capacity as determined by two physicians.

 It is not “suicide” – hardly the correct term for someone who wants to live but for whom suffering from terminal illness is unbearable.

 It is not euthanasia, which requires a physician to administer medication and is illegal in the U.S. and most other countries.

Oregon’s 2014 data (www. healthoregon.org/dwd) show that the safeguards in its law, which are similar to those in L.D. 1270, do work:

 A total of 155 persons, median age 72, requested prescriptions. Most were enrolled in hospice, which demonstrates that some people do not respond to palliative care.

 Thirty percent didn’t fill their prescription and were free to make different choices.

 There has never been a case in which a person was coerced into using the law.

Helene Starks, a bioethics and humanities professor at the University of Washington, has found that those using aid in dying had exhausted all possibilities for relief, including palliative care, want control over their dying and think deeply about and carefully weigh all end-of-life options.

The public hearing on L.D. 1270 is slated for May 15 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 209 of the Cross Building in Augusta.

Jane Elizabeth Fisher, LCSW

retired palliative care social worker