Maine legislature sends assisted suicide bill to governor

The Maine state legislature has sent a bill that would effectively legalize medical aid in dying for patients suffering from terminally-ill diseases to the state’s Democratic governor.

The legislation, called the “Maine Death with Dignity Act,” would allow mentally-competent patients over the age of 18 “to make a request for medication prescribed for the purpose of ending the person’s life.”

Lindsay Crete, a spokeswoman for Gov. Janet Mills, said Wednesday the governor has not yet taken a position on the bill. She has 10 days to either sign or veto, and if she takes no action, the bill would become law after that time.

The bill passed Maine’s Democratic-controlled House on Monday by a vote of 73-72 and its Democratic-controlled Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 19-16. It states that it does not legalize medically-assisted suicide, though if enacted, it would effectively do so.

The bill requires the patient to make two oral requests and a written request for the medication, with the written request being made at least 15 days after the initial oral request. The patient would also need to wait at least two days after they make their written request to receive the prescription and they would need receive a second opinion by a consulting physician.

The proposal defines “terminal disease” as “an incurable and irreversible disease that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment, produce death within 6 months.” Patients who doctors determine are “suffering from a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression causing impaired judgment” would be prohibited from receiving life-ending medication, according to the legislation.

If enacted, the bill would prohibit a patient’s request for life-ending medication from affecting insurance rates and from being a condition in a will or contract. The bill would also make it a crime to “knowingly coerce or exert undue influence” on a patient to receive the medication and criminalize the act of forging request documents for the medication.

If Mills signs the bill, Maine would join seven other states and the District of Columbia that have medical aid in dying statues, according to the Death with Dignity National Center.