It may be merely a philosophical oddity — or it may be much more than that — but one of the mysteries of the human condition is that we have absolutely no say about when our life begins. Some among us, however, think they can decide when it should end.

Maine did away with the death penalty for criminals in 1887, and there’s no chance it will be restored soon.

But intentionally causing death is back on the legislative agenda all the same, as it is the goal of L.D. 1270, An Act Regarding Patient-Directed Care at the End of Life.

That title obfuscates the actual intent of the bill, which is to permit physicians to prescribe fatal doses of drugs upon request.

This is “assisted suicide” and not euthanasia, in which the fatal dose is administered by another person. But if you accept the idea that death is a form of medical treatment, that’s a distinction without a difference.

To many people, including a large number of medical professionals, offering death as a treatment is unconscionable. However, that hasn’t stopped it from becoming the law in four states and a number of other countries.

Maine has taken up the question twice in recent years. In 2000, voters narrowly turned down a similar plan in a referendum, 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent. Then, in 2013, the Maine House killed another version by a substantial 95-43 margin.

Now, however, Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, is giving death another chance. The bill, which is scheduled for a public hearing on May 15, allows a physician to give lethal prescriptions to people diagnosed as having six months or less to live.

The bill says that people have a “right” to information about such procedures, “without the physician withholding requested information regardless of the purpose of the questions or the nature of the information.”

That appears to order providers to tell patients how to kill themselves, regardless of any moral or ethical objections they may have about the process.

Thus, a judge could end up deciding whether doctors will get in trouble for refusing to help kill their patients.

Certainly, people nearing the end of their lives often suffer from discomfort and serious pain, and deserve every aid that medicine and compassion can provide.

But to call helping such people kill themselves “death with dignity” is a gross violation of what human dignity actually entails.

Aaron Kheriaty is associate professor of psychiatry at University of California Irvine School of Medicine. On April 1, in the journal First Things, he wrote, “In Belgium, assisted suicide has been granted to a woman with ‘untreatable depression’; in the Netherlands, assisted suicide has been granted to a woman because she did not want to live in a nursing home. We see evidence here of not only a practical slippery slope but a relentlessly logical slide from a cancer patient with six months to live to people who are merely unhappy, demoralized, dejected, depressed, or desperate. If assisted suicide is a good, why limit it only to a select few?”

The bill supposedly offers “safeguards,” but they will not protect us against human folly.

As Debra J. Saunders, a columnist for, a conservative website, put it April 12: “Doctors misdiagnose. Family members have the ability to make elderly relatives feel unwanted and alone. Lethal prescriptions are cheaper than complicated treatment, so HMOs have an incentive to push patients out the door. Disease can lead to depression, but that can be treated. When people first get a horrific diagnosis, they think they want to die; later many find that their prognosis turned out to be wrong or that they want to live what life they have left.”

They only find that out, however, if someone hasn’t helped kill them first.

Ryan T. Anderson, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, is the author of a new report that lists four reasons why we should reject bills like LD 1270:

• They “endanger the weak and vulnerable” by postulating a “duty to die.” In other nations, the process began with killing the terminally ill, but is now putting disabled children and healthy but depressed people to death, sometimes without consent.

• They “corrupt the practice of medicine” by destroying trust in the doctor-patient relationship.

• They “compromise the family and intergenerational commitments” by encouraging the elderly and the infirm to consider themselves burdens rather than infinitely valuable human beings.

• And they “betray human dignity and equality before the law” by “showing profound disrespect for and callousness to those who will be judged to have lives no longer ‘worth living,’ not least the frail elderly, the demented and the disabled.”

As Kheriaty noted, “A culture that honors and exalts those who deliberately reject life is a culture that eventually will come to worship death.”

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. Email at: [email protected].

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