Maine bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide

By AMANDA KARP
On April 15, 2019

Photo courtesy of Ballotpedia

Maine has proposed a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide for those with a terminal illness.

Sponsored by Rep. Patty Hymanson, D-York, the bill was set for a public hearing last Wednesday, April 10, and it would allow people ages 18 and older to request medicine that will be used to end their life.

A similar bill was proposed and passed in the Senate in 2017 but failed to pass in the House. If this bill is passed, it will make Maine the eighth state, along with the District of Columbia, to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

New Jersey became one of the newest states to allow physician-assisted suicide on Friday, April 12, and will go into effect on Aug. 1. 

This bill stipulates that a patient must make one verbal and two written requests, go through two waiting periods and a second opinion by a physician. In order to ensure that patients are of sound mind when making the decision, they are pre-screened for conditions such as depression that could sway their judgement.

“I realize that this is an option that some people want, and they control their death because death is a part of life,” said Hymanson.  

“The bill before you safeguards against someone with dementia, mental illness, inability to understand or who is coerced to use this process,” she said of during Wednesday’s hearing. The bill was modeled after a similar 1997 law that passed in Oregon.

There were many supporters and critics who testified, with critics arguing for improvements regarding treating mental health and care while in hospice. Proponents argued for giving patients the option to choose their fate.

"I'm worried that in promoting this bill this will deprive Mainers of the hope that is introduced by these new treatments, weighing most heavily again on the uninsured, the disabled, the indigent," Dr. Thomas Sullivan, an opponent of the bill, said.

“They do not want to suffer as they wait for the body’s systems to finally let go,” retired nurse Valerie Aponik said. She argued for the bill, saying that anyone who retains a sound mind while dealing with a terminal illness should be allowed to make that choice for themselves.

Other states should implement legislation that allows for patients to request physician-assisted suicide. As mentioned in the bill, there are parameters for what is and isn’t allowed with the act, which should ideally safeguard patients against potential abuses.

The United States should pass a nationwide bill that supports this because people with terminal illnesses should not be forced to suffer any longer than they already have to. If someone is in unbearable pain with no end in sight for that pain, they should absolutely have the choice to end their life.

Physician-assisted suicide is a topic that has deep emotional ties to all those who are involved in it, but it’s also a subject that demands objectivity when determining the quality of life that those who seek it out possess. Emotions, for better or for worse, should not get in the way of a life-altering decision.

The focus of this bill, as it rightly should be, is for the people who need it most. People can certainly be opposed it, but ultimately, if they are not suffering or in that position, they should not have any sway over its passage. It should be legalized.

 

akarp@ramapo.edu

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