The Legislature in Maine has passed a “death with dignity” bill, and our governor has signed it into law. Now opponents of the law are trying to get enough petition signatures to force a vote on repealing it. Whether or not they succeed, we need to keep end-of-life issues in the forefront.

It is a good beginning to work with what our medical system seems to have forgotten about – everyone has to die at some time. Our cardiovascular specialists have learned how to insert defibrillators and pacemakers that keep our heart going, but as these devices deliver their impulses, our bodies continue to age.

Our joints may fail to work and can become painful. Our lungs may become compromised. We can have dementia; we may lose our ability to urinate only at appropriate times. Our hearing dulls, and macular degeneration, which causes blindness, occurs with increased frequency the older we are. We may lose our quality of life and yet our hearts click on, keeping us breathing, as our bodies age. We, as a society, need to regulate how we die.

Before the 1950s we died because we were old. There were no antibiotics and no cardiac assistive devices. That is no longer the case. We can be kept alive and no longer know where we are, losing our speech, hearing, sight and/or our ability to walk.

It seems to me that this bill is a good first step – but a great deal more needs to be done. This needs to be considered with love. It needs to be considered with consultations from medical providers, who include hospice and palliative care experts, as well as families who have walked the path of their loved ones’ end of life.

Let’s continue this conversation.

Dolly Curtis

Old Orchard Beach


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