Maine becomes 8th state to legalize medically assisted suicide

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:


  • Maine becomes the eighth state to legalize medically assisted suicide, joining Oregon, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Washington, New Jersey and the District of Columbia.
  • On Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed the bill in her office to allow terminally ill people to end their lives with prescribed medication.
  • Previously, the proposal failed once in a statewide vote and at least seven times in the legislature as opponents say the bill will only put terminally ill people in danger of abuse.



Maine becomes the eighth state to legalized assisted suicide, allowing terminally ill patients to end their lives. It joined Oregon, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Washington, New Jersey and the District of Columbia which have similar laws.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday signed the Maine Death with Dignity Act, allowing medical doctors to prescribe terminally ill patients a fatal dose of medication.

The procedure, getting or giving life-ending medication, will not qualify as suicide under the new Maine law.

Maine residents, with the oldest median age in the U.S., welcomed the new law.

Rebecca VanWormer, who had breast cancer that spread to her bones, died in 2017. Her friend Staci Fowler, an educational consultant in Gardiner, recalled how VanWormer pushed for the bill four years ago.

“This is what she wanted,” said Fowler. “And now everybody has the option that she didn’t have.”

To qualify, terminally ill patient with age 18 or older must undergo two waiting periods. First, submit one written and two verbal requests, and second, get the opinions of two physicians that a fatal dose of medication is appropriate. Screening should also be made for conditions that can impair judgement, such as depression.

Previously, the proposal failed once in a statewide vote and at least seven times in the legislature as opponents say the bill will only put terminally ill people in danger of abuse.

“Assisted suicide is a dangerous public policy that puts the most vulnerable people in society at risk for abuse, coercion and mistakes,” said Matt Valliere, executive director of advocacy group Patients Rights Action Fund. “It also provides profit-driven insurance companies perverse incentives to offer a quick death, rather than costly continuing quality care.”

The Maine Death with Dignity Act defines “terminal disease” as one that is incurable and is likely to lead to death within six months. Pressuring someone to request life-ending medication or forging a request for life-ending medication is considered a crime under the new law.

Source: USA Today

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