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Quality of life at the end of life

Maine Debates Physician-Assisted Suicide


AUGUSTA – Maine lawmakers are considering controversial bills to allow doctors the freedom to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill adults seeking death.

The Legislature’s Health and Human Services committee on Wednesday held public hearings on similar proposals sponsored by Republican Sen. Roger Katz and Democratic Rep. Jennifer Parker.

So-called “Death with Dignity” is legal in six states and Washington, D.C. The Maine legislation is modeled on Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act of 1997.

The bills would protect health care providers who prescribe life-ending barbiturates to terminally ill adults nearing death. It would also create a process allowing qualifying patients to choose assisted suicide. Patients must be deemed mentally competent and ingest the drugs themselves.

However, opponents, including religious groups and physicians organizations doctors, are deeply concerned about legalization.

According to The Associated Press, Republican Rep. Jeffrey Hanley said such legislation lead Maine down a “slippery slope” that could lead to an attitude of: “‘You’re old, you can’t do anything, maybe you should end your life.’”

Supporters want terminally ill patients to be given that option. A poll released by Public Policy Polling found nearly three-fourths of Maine voters support it.

The issue has divided state doctors. The Maine Medical Association is not taking a position on the legislation, according to the AP.

The American Medical Association remains firmly opposed to physician-assisted suicide.

The Chicago-based organization is the nation’s largest organization of physicians and represents nearly 200,000 doctors, medical students and residents. Its policy remains unmoved amid a national debate regarding the risks and benefits of physician-assisted suicide.