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Maine Legislative Committee to Hear Death with Dignity Bills as New Poll Shows 73% Support in the State

April 3, 2017

A poll released by Public Policy Polling today shows that nearly 3 of 4 Maine voters overwhelmingly support legislation expanding the right of terminally ill patients with less than six months to live to legally obtain prescription medication to end their lives.

The poll shows 73 percent of Maine residents surveyed are in favor of the proposal. The findings were released prior to Wednesday’s hearing of the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Health and Human Services on LD 347 / LD 1066.

“These results come as no surprise,” said Peg Sandeen, Executive Director of Death with Dignity National Center, the advocacy organization that commissioned the survey. “National polls also show overwhelming—and growing—support for letting people make their own decisions about how to live their last days.”

Support for the bill is bipartisan, diverse, and broad-based, with majorities of women (74 percent), men (73 percent), Democrats (84 percent), Republicans (59 percent), Independents (78 percent), Catholics (65 percent), Protestants (72 percent), religiously unaffiliated (96 percent), and voters of all ages (68 to 77 percent) all in favor of expanding the rights of the terminally ill.

Mainers should not have to move out of state to die in a way that is right for us.

—Valerie Lovelace

Introduced by Maine State Senator Roger Katz (R-Kennebec) and Representative Jennifer Parker (D-South Berwick), the two nearly identical bills heard on April 5th would allow adult Maine residents who have had two doctors confirm a terminal diagnosis to fill a prescription medication to end their lives in a peaceful and dignified manner at the time and place of their choosing.

A similar law has been in place in Oregon since 1997. In nearly 20 years years, no significant problems have arisen, and Oregon was recently named as the best place in America for end-of-life care, with most Oregonians dying peacefully at home or in hospice, rather than in a hospital. The law has been used sparingly—only 1,127 times, representing fewer than 4 in 1,000 deaths in the state, with fully a third of those who successfully obtain a prescription opting not to use it.

“The Oregon law has been implemented carefully and worked exactly as intended for nearly 20 years,” Sandeen said. “The time is right for Maine to adopt this law.”

Valerie Lovelace, Executive Director of It’s My Death, a nonprofit based in Wiscasset, Maine, said, “Mainers should not have to move out of state to die in a way that is right for us. I want to have a say in my dying without the government or the church deciding for me. This bill is an important step toward providing Maine residents with the autonomy, freedom and peace of mind that has been a godsend in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, and Colorado.”

PPP surveyed 798 Maine voters by automated telephone interviews from March 24-26, 2017. The margin of error for the survey is +/-3.5 %.

Featured image by Jim Bowen.

2 Comments.

Sharon
April 14, 2017 at 6:07 am

Please tell me if you consider patients with severe mental illness, depressions, anxiety and PTSD who suffer daily and want to end their suffering.

Peter Korchnak, Death with Dignity
April 14, 2017 at 4:50 pm

In short, no.

Death with Dignity laws require that you be an adult resident of CA, CO, DC, OR, VT, or WA; mentally competent, i.e. capable of making and communicating your healthcare decisions; diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months; and able to self-administer and ingest the prescribed medication without assistance. Two physicians must determine whether all these criteria have been met. If either physician determines that your judgment is impaired in any way, e.g. by a mental illness or depression, they must refer you for a psychological or psychiatric evaluation. If the evaluation finds impaired judgment, the process stops and you won’t qualify.

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