As we all make plans to hunker down over the next several weeks while we in Maine do our part to slow the spread of Covid-19, I wanted to check in with a brief update.
Maine’s Death with Dignity Act is bringing comfort to patients in our state, just like it was meant to do. I’m deeply grateful for the law and for the relief it brings to those who qualify to use it.
If you’re a patient, it’s important when having a conversation with your physician that you ask directly, “Will you fully support my decision to qualify for medication under the Maine Death with Dignity Act when I am ready for that? Will you write my prescription if/when I do qualify?”
And you should receive a direct answer in response. It might sound like, “Yes, I’m willing to support your decision and write the prescription if/when you qualify” or “No, I’m sorry, it’s not something I can support for personal reasons.”
The follow on conversation should then be about helping you qualify or helping you with a referral to someone who will support your decision (if you want to be referred).
In no case should any patient be left wondering whether the law is in effect or how to access it.
The real work for death with dignity started when our law went into effect last September. We owe it to one another to keep pushing for more providers to support our end-of-life decisions. Some physicians would like to, but are not permitted because employers still have policies against it.
We should not have to leave the care of our physicians to find support in another place.
If your physician cannot support your decision because of a prohibitive employer policy, please ask to whom you should direct your request for change. Follow through in writing to ask that employer for policy change regarding the Maine Death with Dignity Act.
Healthcare employers in our state should have neutral policies so their physicians may choose for themselves whether to support patient decisions.
In the end, I hope you won’t need to access the law. But should you want or need, your physicians should be allowed to support all of your end-of-life decisions.
In the meantime, stay safe while we ride out the storm.
Walk gently and love fiercely. We’re all in this together.