Implementation of the Maine Death with Dignity Act

A recent article by WGME, “Maine’s death with dignity law is in effect. Here’s how the roll out is going.” highlights some of the activities happening to implement Maine’s new law.

There is still misinformation floating around about whether the law is in effect, and if so, to what degree.

The law is in full effect and has been since September 19, 2019.

All the necessary rules are in place and the state has provided required forms for physician and prescription reporting. The forms are easily accessible on the state’s vital statistics site.

MaineHealth is working on internal policy and expects to have that ready by January 1, 2020, according to a public statement issued September 19, 2019Northern Light Health has issued a prohibitive policy, which they have indicated may be temporary.  The Maine Medical Association has indicated it is working with Maine Hospital Association providers to help them arrive at policy solutions if they do intend to support patient decisions to access the law.

Any patient wishing to access the law at some point may have conversations with physicians now, and it’s important to do that to determine whether a physician will be willing, if the time comes, to support your decision and help you qualify for life-ending medication once you meet the requirements of the law.

Terminally ill patients who believe they are qualified now may submit their first oral request when speaking with their physician.

If your physician states that s/he is not authorized yet to help due to employer policy still being developed, you still have a right to have your verbal request documented in your patient record and it is not inappropriate for you to ask for that.

If your physician states s/he is prohibited from participation or cannot support your decision, you may still insist that your request be documented in your patient record along with your physician’s statement of decline. At this point, you will have to decide how you want to proceed with the physician, knowing s/he will not be supporting your decision to use the Maine Death with Dignity Act.

If your physician has indicated that s/he will help you once employer policy is in place, you have a right to submit your second verbal request with your written, witnessed request following a 15 day wait from your first verbal request.  Request that your second verbal and written requests also be documented in your patient record.  Your physician may not be able to act on your request, but at least your formal requests and 15 day wait period will be documented.

You have a right at any time to find a physician who will help you and request that your records be transferred to that physician.  Your request cannot be denied and should not be delayed.

All necessary physician forms and a recommended patient request form are listed on the website under vital statistics forms.

A physician check-sheet is available to support documenting your process.

Please contact Maine Death with Dignity with questions or concerns regarding implementation of the law and encourage your provider(s) to do the same.