Maine Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Assisted Suicide

Maine Governor Janet Mills signs a bill Wednesday in her office in Augusta that makes the state eighth in the country to let terminally ill people end their lives with prescribed medication. (AP Photo/Marina Villeneuve)

AUGUSTA, Maine (CN) – Maine officially became the eighth state to legalize assisted suicide Wednesday when Governor Janet Mills signed the practice into law after the state Senate sent it to her desk last week.

The state’s Death With Dignity Act establishes the procedures to allow those with a terminal illness and a short time to live to be prescribed medication to end their life.

Along with the law, Mills signed an executive order that requires the Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services to track instances of those choosing to end their life, in order to ensure that certain members of different socioeconomic classes aren’t disproportionately killing themselves.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

These procedures establish a series of steps that patients are required to follow before they can end their own life, including two waiting periods, one written and two oral requests, a second opinion by a consulting physician and a psychological evaluation.

Similar legislation is in place in Oregon, California, Colorado, Vermont, Washington, Hawaii, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

“I applaud Governor Mills for signing the Death with Dignity Act into law,” said Val Lovelace of Maine Death with Dignity in a statement. “I am so proud and grateful to finally be heard by our lawmakers and our Governor on this issue. This is an exceptionally historic day for Maine.”

The law will go into effect 90 days after the adjournment of the Legislature. The governor’s executive order for data collection takes effect immediately.

“It is my hope that this law, while respecting the right to personal liberty, will be used sparingly; that we will respect the life of every citizen, with the utmost concern for their spiritual and physical well-being, and that as a society we will be as vigorous in providing full comfort, hospice and palliative care to all persons, no matter their status, location or financial ability as we are in respecting their right to make this ultimate decision over their own fate and of their own free will,” Mills said.

Maine Right to Life, which issued a call for supporters to oppose the bill, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Wednesday evening.

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