Maine is about to enter a more civilized era by offering terminally ill patients the right to ask like-minded physicians for a lethal dose of a medication that will spare them the agony of a slow, painful death.

Anyone who has lived on our beautiful planet long enough has learned that there are really few things that we have control over in our short lives. Today, with advances in medical technology and well-meaning health care providers, life can be prolonged much longer than our ancestors enjoyed.

With these advances, though, our aging population faces new challenges as the end of life approaches. These days, life more frequently ends in a hospital or nursing home facility. Most people I know would prefer to live their last hours in the warm embrace of loved ones than in a cold, sterile, sometimes even hostile environment.

As described in a recent book (“Being Mortal”) by respected surgeon Atul Gawande, M.D., life in a typical nursing home is nothing more than a slow, sad, expensive and predictable decline for terminally ill patients.

Of course, this same dramatic decline is not reserved only for the aging population. Machines in an intensive care unit can transform a once-vibrant person into a virtual robotic human being; it can happen to anyone, young or old.

L.D. 1270 will offer patients and their doctors a compassionate exit strategy that is long overdue not only in Maine, but also in our nation.

The proposal will give patients the ability to direct their own dying process (, and I would encourage anyone who is interested in influencing the passage of this legislation to contact their representatives now as the bill goes through the legislative process.

Joseph Benedetto