Petition Summary

This is a summary of the proposed initiative, Maine Death with Dignity Act.

Summary

This initiated bill enacts the Maine Death with Dignity Act authorizing a person who is 18 years of age or older, who meets certain qualifications and who has been determined by the person’s attending physician to be suffering from a terminal disease, as defined in the Act, to make a request for medication prescribed for the purpose of ending the person’s life. The initiated bill establishes the procedures for making these requests, including 2 waiting periods and one written and 2 oral requests and requires a 2nd opinion by a consulting physician. The initiated bill requires specified information to be documented in the person’s medical record, including all oral and written requests for a medication to hasten death.

The initiated bill requires the attending and consulting physicians to assess the patient for depression or other mental health condition that impairs judgment. If the attending or consulting physician, in the physician’s professional opinion, believes such a condition exists, the patient must be evaluated and treated by a state-licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker or clinical professional counselor. Medication to end a patient’s life in a humane and dignified manner may not be prescribed until the person performing the counseling determines that the patient is not suffering from a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression causing impaired judgment.

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Maine Death with Dignity Petition Sample
A portion of the petition to enact Maine Death with Dignity Act

The initiated bill prohibits a provision in a contract, will or other agreement from being conditioned upon, or affected by, a person’s making or rescinding a request for medication under the Act. The initiated bill prohibits the sale, procurement or issuance of any life, health or accident insurance or annuity policy or the rate charged for any life, health or accident insurance or annuity policy from being conditioned upon or affected by the making or rescinding of such a request.

The initiated bill authorizes a health care provider to prohibit its employees, independent contractors or other persons or entities, including other health care providers, from participating in activities under the Act while on premises owned by or under the management or direct control of that prohibiting health care provider or while acting within the course and scope of any employment by, or contract with, the prohibiting health care provider.

The initiated bill makes it a Class A crime to knowingly alter or forge a request for medication to end a person’s life without that person’s authorization or to conceal or destroy a withdrawal or rescission of a request for medication, if it is done with the intent or effect of causing the person’s death. The initiated bill makes it a Class A crime to knowingly coerce or exert undue influence on a person to request medication for the purpose of ending that person’s life or to destroy a withdrawal or rescission of a request. The initiated bill provides that the Act does not authorize ending a patient’s life by lethal injection, mercy killing or active euthanasia and provides that action taken in accordance with the Act does not constitute, among other things, suicide or homicide.

The initiated bill requires health care providers to submit specified information to the Department of Health and Human Services upon their writing a prescription for or dispensing medication under the Act and after the death of the qualified patient. The initiated bill requires the department to generate and make available to the public an annual statistical report of information collected regarding compliance with the Act. The initiated bill requires a copy of the report to be submitted to the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over health matters annually by March 1st.

Estimate of Fiscal Impact

This citizen initiative enacts the Maine Death with Dignity Act. If it becomes law the Department of Health and Human Services will require General Fund appropriations of approximately $60,000 annually for the salary, benefits and associated costs of one half-time Health Services Consultant position to review all records, adopt rules and generate and make certain information collected available to the public. The establishment of a new class A crime may increase judicial and correctional costs, but no estimate of those costs can be made at this time. The collection of additional fines may also increase General Fund revenue by minor amounts.