Maine legalizes medically assisted suicide

Maine legalizes medically assisted suicide
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Maine became the eighth state to legalize medically assisted suicide Wednesday.

Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed the Maine Death with Dignity Act, which lays out several steps a patient and physician must take before the procedure. The bill requires the patient to undergo two waiting periods and one written and two oral requests and obtain opinions from at least two physicians that a medically assisted suicide is appropriate. 

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The bill authorizes “a person who is 18 years of age or older, who meets certain qualifications and who has been determined by the person's attending physician to be suffering from a terminal disease … to make a request for medication prescribed for the purpose of ending the person's life.” 

It defines a “terminal disease” as one that cannot be cured and will likely result in death within six months.

The bill clarifies that obtaining or administering life-ending medication is not technically suicide under state law, effectively legalizing the practice. It criminalizes coercing a patient into requesting life-ending medication and falsifying a request for the procedure.

The legislation passed both chambers of the state legislature by narrow margins and had failed once before in a statewide referendum.

Maine joins California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, New Jersey and the District of Columbia in legalizing the procedure. 

Supporters say terminally ill patients should have the option to end their lives with dignity, though critics say the policy is a slippery slope. 

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