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Lawmakers, Grassroots Advocates Urge Legislature to Support Maine Death with Dignity Act

April 9, 2019

State lawmakers today held a press conference at the Maine State House in Augusta, stating their support for LD 1313, the Maine Death with Dignity Act, which will receive a hearing in the legislature’s Committee on Health and Human Services April 10. Joining them was Valerie Lovelace, chair of the steering committee for grassroots political action committee, Maine Death with Dignity , who, along with many dedicated volunteers, has led local efforts to bring medical aid in dying to Maine.

Introduced by Representative Patricia Hymanson (D-York), a physician, with a bipartisan group of co-sponsors in both legislative chambers, the Maine law would allow adult state residents who have had two physicians confirm a terminal diagnosis to receive prescription medication to end their lives in a peaceful and dignified manner.

Maine Representative Hymanson speaking at the pre-hearing press conference

Maine Representative Hymanson speaking at the pre-hearing press conference, Augusta, April 8, 2019

“Honored to support this bill”

“I am honored to support this bill,” Hymanson said. She described letters and personal stories she had received from her constituents detailing the suffering their loved ones had endured as they were dying of terminal illnesses. She also recalled her own experiences as a physician, listening to her patients’ express their values, hopes, and fears about death and dying.

The Maine Death with Dignity Act is modeled closely on the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, with the same safeguards to ensure the patient is acting voluntarily, does not suffer from impaired judgment, and is capable of taking the medication without assistance. The full text of LD 1313 is available here.

A Compassionate Option

Maine State Representative Michele Meyer (D-Eliot), a registered nurse who sits on the Committee on Health and Human Services, spoke about the need for death with dignity when the course of dying becomes “horrific, despite all the services [and]…expert care we have to offer.” The option of medical aid in dying, she said, gives patients with terminal illnesses “a choice to reject the notion that they must be passive victims to a frequently brutal disease that often strips them of their dignity and autonomy.”

Working as a cancer patient navigator and watching her father die of colon cancer gave State Senator Marianne Moore (R-Washington) a window into the suffering faced by dying patients at the end of their lives. These experiences, she said, inform her support for the Maine Death with Dignity Act.

Respect the Majority

Lovelace, who has been involved with the death with dignity movement in Maine since 2015, called LD 1313 “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.”

“We are grateful to Representative Hymanson for taking a leadership role in assuring Mainers this bill provides terminally ill patients with more choices at the end of life,” Lovelace added. “It’s time the legislature respected the majority of Maine voters who wish to have this end-of-life option.”

A March 2017 Public Policy Polling survey of Mainers showed 3 in 4 voters (73 percent) overwhelmingly support legislation expanding the right of terminally ill patients with less than six months to live to legally obtain prescription medication to end their lives. Support for an assisted dying law in Maine is bipartisan, diverse, and broad-based, with majorities of women (74 percent), men (73 percent), Democrats (84 percent), Republicans (59 percent), Independents (78 percent), Catholics (65 percent), Protestants (72 percent), religiously unaffiliated (96 percent), and voters of all ages (68 to 77 percent) all in favor of expanding the rights of the terminally ill.

Maine Death with Dignity's Valerie Lovelace speaking at the press conference

Maine Death with Dignity’s Valerie Lovelace speaking at the pre-hearing press conference, Augusta, April 8, 2019

“The time is right”

“The Oregon pioneering law has been implemented carefully and worked exactly as intended for over two decades,” added Peg Sandeen, executive director of Death with Dignity National Center, which has been working in Maine for nearly 20 years. “The time is right for Maine to adopt this law.”

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