Maine’s recently enacted Death With Dignity law adds us to the growing list of states recognizing that end of life decisions are not the government’s to make.

When a mentally competent adult has a terminal illness and only a few months to live, that individual now has significant choice on how to proceed. Some may choose aggressive medical treatment, some may choose palliative care to control pain, and others may request medication allowing them to choose the time and place for ending their own suffering.

Over the past year I have spoken with hundreds and hundreds of Mainers as I carried a referendum petition supporting this Death With Dignity law. Responses were overwhelmingly in favor. Many of the people with whom I had the honor of speaking had heart-wrenching stories of suffering grandparents, parents, spouses, children or friends. They longed for a Death With Dignity law. Now they have it. But I also want to comment on the civility of those who would not sign the petition. I never received an angry or threatening rebuttal; never had an “in your face” encounter. They were respectful in their non-support and I want to thank them for that courtesy.

My non-scientific survey indicates a 5 to 1 ratio of support for the Death With Dignity act. I believe our legislators in Augusta recognized the mood of their constituents as they heard testimony, engaged in debate, considered, and voted for enactment. I want to thank them as well. And, of course, special appreciation goes to Gov. Mills for signing it into law.

Len Freeman


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