70 million: Number of Americans who have access to a death with dignity law in 2019
As of this writing, 70 million people in the United States live in a state with an aid-in-dying law.
In the past 15 months alone, three states—Hawaii, Maine, and New Jersey—have enacted death with dignity statutes, joining Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, and Washington, D.C. in giving their residents an option to relieve suffering and maintain autonomy at the end of life.
Our victory in Maine was especially meaningful. On June 12, five years of hard work paid off when Maine Governor Janet Mills signed LD 1313, the Maine Death with Dignity Act into law.
This achievement would not be possible without Val Lovelace, our grassroots partner and 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.
72,079: Number of signatures Maine Death with Dignity volunteers gathered to place an assisted-dying measure on the state ballot.
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.
104: Number of co-sponsors of death with dignity bills in Massachusetts and New York, two of our priority states for 2019 and 2020.
In Massachusetts, where we came close to victory at the ballot box in 2012, lawmakers are considering the End of Life Options Act. At a June 2019 hearing at the state Capitol in Boston, Death with Dignity staff joined advocates, physicians, social workers, and patients with terminal illness to testify in favor of the bill. We are partnering with a grassroots organization to provide advocates the tools and strategy to help them succeed in their policy-reform efforts. John Berkowitz, the founder of Western Massachusetts Death with Dignity, has dedicated his time to building a volunteer base, coordinating events, and meeting with legislators. In op-eds and letters to the editor, lawmakers and citizens are voicing their support for death with dignity.
As part of the New York Coalition for Medical Aid in Dying, we are working with national and state-based organizations to push for passage of the Medical Aid in Dying Act. Advocates testified at a Lobby Day at the State Capitol in Albany in May 2019. Jonathan Partridge, whose mother died after years of suffering with a terminal illness, shared his story; read his moving tribute to his mother here.
New York State Senator Diane Savino is a co-sponsor of the bill. “There is no legislation more important than this Act” in the current legislative session, Savino said. Terminally ill New Yorkers “want to be able to decide how they exit this world. They want some control over what [happens] to them in their final moments, so they can say goodbye with humanity and compassion and dignity.”
Another co-sponsor, State Assemblymember Sandy Galef, wrote an op-ed in August 2019 explaining her support of death with dignity as an end-of-life option: “I believe it is an important step in promoting patient autonomy and physician humanity.”