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Maine Adopts Death with Dignity

June 12, 2019

Governor Janet Mills today signed the Maine Death with Dignity Act into law.

With the Governor’s signature, Maine became the 9th jurisdiction to allow people with a terminal illness to die the way they want: without suffering, in peace, and with dignity. Nearly 70 million Americans now live in a state with an assisted dying option.

This victory would not be possible without Val Lovelace, the truly fearless leader of Maine Death with Dignity. Her tireless work with legislators, volunteers, and the media; her testimonies, community presentations, and sleepless nights; and her perseverance above all made the difference.

Val said, “I applaud Governor Mills for signing the Death with Dignity Act into law. 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.”

Culmination of a Long Campaign

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. This was the third session with a similar bill. The bill passed in the House by 73 to 72 and in the Senate by 19 to 16 earlier 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 Grateful

As we celebrate this momentous day, we also think of Mainers like Eva Thompson and Rebecca VanWormer who advocated for death with dignity until their final days and died fighting for their right to die on their own terms. It is in their honor that we will always remember this day.

Val Lovelace (left) with Eva Thompson after a legislative Committee hearing in April 2017

And it was the Mainers’ and others’ generous contributions, letters and phone calls to legislators, Facebook posts and tweets, signatures on the ballot initiative petition, conversations with loved ones, crossed fingers as we waited for this day in Maine, and more that got us here.

From Maine to California, Washington state to Washington, D.C., Hawaii to Vermont, together we are making progress in bringing death with dignity to all Americans who want the freedom to make their own end-of-life decisions. Thank you for being part of history.

Next Steps

“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,” Val said.. “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.

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, our Executive Director. “It is past time for states like Maine to adopt death with dignity.”

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