The Maine Death with Dignity Act provides a structured, legal process by which qualified patients may request and receive life-ending medication from their attending physician under specific circumstances.
It is essential that healthcare providers of all kinds know how to respond to patient inquiries with correct information about the Maine Death with Dignity Act and how a patient can access it.
In order to qualify, a patient must:
- Be an adult (18 yrs or older) resident of Maine.
- Be diagnosed with a terminal disease and have a six month prognosis, confirmed by attending and consulting physicians.
- Be of sound mind.
- Be making an informed decision (as defined in statute).
- Be capable of ingesting the medication on their own without assistance.
- Submit two verbal requests separated by a minimum of 15 days.
- Submit a witnessed, written request (which may be submitted with the second verbal request).
Forms and More Info
Physicians willing and able to support a patient’s decision under the Death with Dignity Act have specific procedural requirements codified in the law. Physicians may have additional policy guidelines depending on their employer.
A physician check-sheet is available to help guide the process (click here).
All required physician forms may be found on the Maine Department of Health and Human Services website under forms for vital statistics (click here).
Emergency Rules for data reporting and collection were put in place by executive order of Governor Janet Mills on September 19, 2019, making the law completely accessible upon it’s effective date.
NOTE: 10-146 CMR Chapter 15, Death with Dignity Act Reporting Rule, has been adopted and is effective August 30, 2020. Access major substantive rules for the Maine Death with Dignity Act in the Rule Chapters for the Department of Health and Human Services under section 10 146 Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics, Chapter 15 (or download here).
Read the full text of the Maine Death with Dignity Act (click here).
Maine’s law on opiate prescribing, authorized exceptions to exceed 100mg limitation (click here), and waivers for electronic prescription submission.
Generally speaking, compounded formulas known as DDMA or DDMP, which contains morphine, are the most commonly used prescriptions under the Maine Death with Dignity Act.
If needed, a waiver request form for electronic prescribing may be submitted if the attending physician does not have access to electronic prescribing (click here). More information about this may be obtained by contacting the prescription monitoring program team via email at SAMHS.PMP[at]maine[dot]gov or by phone at 207.287.2595, option 2.
If you are a physician, pharmacist, or other heath care provider and have additional questions about implementing the Maine Death with Dignity Act or about obtaining general training for your group, please contact us.
The Maine Death with Dignity Act does not require physicians or other providers to participate in supporting patients’ decisions to hasten their own death:
“Nothing in this Act requires a health care provider to provide medication to a qualified patient to end the qualified patient’s life. If a health care provider is unable or unwilling to carry out the qualified patient’s request under this Act, the health care provider shall transfer any relevant medical records for the patient to a new health care provider upon request by the patient.”
For physicians and providers who do not participate, the Maine Death with Dignity Act does require a physician to provide a referral to a physician who will support the patient’s decision to qualify, when the patient requests the referral. Referring a patient to another pjhysician for the purpose of accessing the Maine Death with Dignity Act is not considered “participating in the Act.”
For more information on the legal definition for “participating” and “not participating” in the Maine Death wiht Dingity Act, refer to Section 20 of the statute.