AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Members of a legislative committee on Wednesday heard compelling arguments on both sides of a very sensitive and personal issue: allowing "death with dignity."
Under the bill, patients that are determined by a doctor to be within the last six months of life would be allowed to take lethal medication.
Kathleen Hobson supports the measure. She has stage 4 cancer. She does not want to die the way her sister did. She also fought cancer.
"She died the way she feared she would, as we all do. In pain, without control, and without dignity," she told the panel. "Her agonizing death is how my beautiful nieces remember her last day."
As a doctor, Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick has seen patients pass away. It’s the painful deaths he remembers most.
"I’ve only seen two or three patients die like this in my 40 years, but they stay with me," he testified.
Safeguards and requirements would be incorporated into the law, including two separate verbal requests by the patient and a signed, written request. Doctors who don’t want to participate would not be required to — still, many opponents lined up against it.
"And it is suicide," said Rep. Jeffrey Hanley, R-Pittston. "The taking of an innocent life is always an act of suicide when you do it yourself."
The Maine Medical Association (MMA) represents hundreds of practicing and retired physicians. In the past, the group has opposed attempts to create a right to die law, but that may be changing.
"After hundreds of responses and hundreds more expected, it's absolutely evenly divided," said MMA's Gordon Smith. "It’s like a tie."
Smith told the panel it’s unlikely the MMA will support the measure, but he says it is possible members will lift their opposition.