Death with Dignity Act Summary

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Summary

The Maine Death with Dignity Act authorizes 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 Act 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 Act requires specific information to be documented in the person’s medical record, including all oral and written requests for a medication to hasten death.

The Act 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 condition causing impaired judgment.

The Act 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 Act 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 Act 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 Act does not authorize a physician or any other person to end a patient’s life by lethal injection, mercy killing or active euthanasia. Actions taken in accordance with the Act do not, for any purpose, constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing or homicide under the law.  State reports may not refer to acts committed under the Act as “suicide” or “assisted suicide.” State reports must refer to acts committed under this Act as obtaining and self-administering life-ending medication.

The Act requires health care providers to submit specific 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 Act requires the department to generate and make available to the public an annual statistical report of information collected regarding compliance with the Act. The Act 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.