Health

Maine Becomes The Eighth State To Legalize Assisted Suicide

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill Wednesday that legalizes assisted suicide in Maine.

The bill legalizes assisted suicide for mentally competent people older than 18 who are suffering from a terminal illness.

The bill also articulates that neither obtaining nor giving the required medication can be considered suicide under Maine law, The Associated Press reported. The law, titled the Maine Death with Dignity Act, is set to go into effect in 90 days after the legislative session ends. (RELATED: Texas Town Outlaws Abortion, Declares It A Sanctuary For The Unborn)

Maine is the eighth state to legalize assisted suicide. Oregon led the way to legalize assisted suicide in 1997, followed by Washington state in 2009.

California, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have also enacted similar laws, according to USA Today.

“It is not up to the government to decide who may die and who may live, when they shall die or how long they shall live,” Mills said according to a press release from her office. “While I do not agree […] that the right of the individual is so absolute, I do believe it is a right that should be protected in law, along with protections for those who are unable to articulate their informed choices and those who do not have access to quality end of life care.”

Patients who wish to have an assisted suicide must make one written and two oral requests for the required medication. The law requires two waiting periods and mandates that the patient consult with a physician for a second opinion. The bill also criminalizes any knowing coercion or exertion of “undue influence” on a patient.

“Assisted suicide is a dangerous public policy that puts the most vulnerable people in society at risk for abuse, coercion and mistakes,” Matt Valliere, executive director of Patients Rights Action Fund, said in a statement Wednesday.

“It also provides profit-driven insurance companies perverse incentives to offer a quick death, rather than costly continuing quality care,” Valliere added. “Mainers, especially the terminally ill, people with disabilities, and the poor, deserve better.”

Republican Maine state Sen. Scott Cyrway said when the bill passed the Maine Senate that patients often live many years after learning they have limited time left.

“There’s several instances like that where hope is everything,” Cyrway said, according to the AP. “If we go and take this hope away, that’s what we’re doing when we push this button.”

Mills also signed a bill Monday permitting non-doctors to perform abortions in Maine. The law will allow physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses to perform abortions, according to a press release from Mills’ office.

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