Maine legislature approves bill legalizing assisted suicide

Maine legislature approves bill legalizing assisted suicide

Maine could be on track to become the eighth state in the country to legalize assisted suicide, with the state Senate voting to approve a much-debated bill Tuesday. 

The bill, called the Maine Death with Dignity Act, would allow doctors to prescribe lethal medications to terminally ill patients 18 or over. 

It passed the lower chamber with a narrow 73-72 vote Monday, according to the Associated Press, and now heads to Gov. Janet Mills (D) who will decide if it becomes law. 

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It's the first time the bill has made it to the governor's desk for a signature, having failed in the legislature at least seven times and failing a statewide vote once, according to the AP. 

The bill has a number of qualifications a patient needs to meet before a request is granted, including consulting physicians assessing the patient's competency. Once deemed competent, a patient must make a written request for medication to self administer. 

Supporters of the bill said it honors the state's tradition of supporting individual rights and autonomy, but opponents said it leaves room for doctors' mistakes and unintended consequences, according to the AP. 

To limit issues, the bill defines terminal illness as an "incurable and reversible disease, as well as “medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment, produce death within 6 months.”

At least 18 states considered similar legislation this year, according to the AP, which reports there are pending bills in Delaware, Kansas, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island.