MaineHealth issues statement on death with dignity law

By Stephen Betts | Sep 19, 2019

Rockport — The parent corporation of the local health care system that includes Pen Bay Medical Center and the physician offices in the Midcoast said it will allow doctors to participate in the state's new law called "Death with Dignity."

The law was approved this year by the Maine Legislature. A petition drive to force a referendum on whether to repeal the law failed to gather enough signatures to get on the state ballot.

MaineHealth issued a statement Thursday, Sept. 19, the day the law took effect.

“MaineHealth has been reviewing the legislation and discussing a policy position with respect to the state’s new Death with Dignity law in a process involving clinical representatives from across its system. Through that process, we have determined that it is in the best interests of our patients, our organization and our care teams to allow our providers the choice to participate with qualified patients in accordance with appropriate guidelines and policies."

“However, MaineHealth will delay implementation until a thoughtful and thoroughly vetted set of policies and guidelines is developed that is responsive to the rights and needs of our patients as well as our providers and care teams. We expect a comprehensive policy to be in place by Jan. 1, 2020.”

The bill would allow people 18 years or older who have been determined by a physician to have a terminal illness and less than six months to live to make a request for medication to end their own life.

The bill establishes the procedures for making these requests, including two waiting periods and one written and two oral requests and requires a second opinion by a physician. The bill requires the physicians to assess the patient for depression or other mental health conditions that impair judgment.

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