Press Release: Mainers with Terminal Illness Gain a Dignified Option for Life’s End

Governor Mills Signing of the Maine Death with Dignity Act Culminates Grassroorts Campaign to Expand End-of-Life Options

Maine Death with Dignity applauds Governor Janet Mills for signing the Death with Dignity Act into law today.

Valerie Lovelace, Steering Committee Chair said, “With Governor Mills’ signature, Maine proudly joins seven other states and our nation’s capital in having death with dignity as a safe, legal end-of-life option for competent, terminally ill adults who qualify with their physicians.”

The Maine Death with Dignity Act was introduced in the legislature earlier this year as LD 1313 by Representative Patricia Hymanson (D-York), a retired neurologist, with bi-partisan co-sponsorship from both chambers. The bill passed in the House by 73 to 72 and in the Senate by 19 to 16 this month.

A parallel effort Maine Death with Dignity initiated in May 2018 gathered over 72,000 valid signatures and would have taken the question to ballot in 2020 had LD 1313 failed. “We are so proud and grateful to finally be heard by our lawmakers and our governor on this issue,” Lovelace said. “This is an exceptionally historic day for Maine.”

Nearly 70 million Americans now live in a state with an assisted dying option, Lovelace said, adding that nearly 3 in 4 Maine voters (73 percent) overwhelmingly support this legislation, according to a March 2017 Public Policy Polling survey. Support for the law in Maine is bipartisan, diverse, and broad-based.

“The Death with Dignity Act is an important step toward providing Maine residents with the autonomy, freedom, and peace of mind that has been a godsend to dying patients in other states,” concluded Lovelace. “It’s past time for that here. I look forward to continuing public education and advocacy efforts in Maine. It’s important for people to have correct information about how the law works and who is eligible to qualify.”

Like the Oregon law it is based on, the Maine Death with Dignity Act allows qualifying terminally ill adult state residents to receive prescription medication to end their lives in a peaceful and dignified manner. The patient must be competent and deemed by two physicians to be within 6 months of death, the same standard as hospice, and capable of taking the medications themselves. The process entails two oral and one written request witnessed by two people and a lengthy waiting period.

According to the Death with Dignity National Center, a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit aiding Lovelace’s organization, a similar law has been in place in Oregon since 1997. In over 40 years of combined flawless implementation in Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, D.C., the death with dignity option has been used sparingly. In Oregon, fewer than 4 in 1,000 deaths in the state are under the law. A third of those who successfully obtain a prescription opt not to use it.

“Oregon’s pioneering law was carefully implemented and has been working exactly as intended for over two decades,” added Peg Sandeen, Executive Director of Portland, Oregon-based advocacy organization Death with Dignity National Center. “It is past time for states like Maine to adopt death with dignity.”

The law will go into effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which is scheduled to adjourn on June 19.

About Maine Death with Dignity

Maine Death with Dignity is a grassroots political action committee established in 2017 for the purpose of passing an assisted dying statute in Maine based on the Oregon model law. Learn more at MaineDeathwithDignity.org, or contact us at PO Box 801, Wiscasset, ME 04578; (207) 240-3186; or info@mainedeathwithdignity.org.

Death with Dignity National Center is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization working to provide aid in dying as an option for individuals with a terminal illness and to stimulate nationwide improvements in end-of-life care. For more information or to contact us, visit DeathwithDignity.org.