‘Death With Dignity’ Law Utilized by 100+ Mainers Post-2019 Legislation


Since Maine’s “Death with Dignity” statute was established by the legislature and signed by Governor Janet Mills (D-Maine) in 2019, data filed with DHHS show that more than 100 terminally ill Maine residents have invoked the option.

Maine is one of 10 states, including Washington, D.C., that allow “medical aid in dying.” That is the most generally used term, while some still refer to it as “physician-assisted suicide.”

After her sister Dee died of a terminal illness in 2009, Val Lovelace wanted to do more to help others talk about death.

“I got to know her better then than I had in the previous 49 years by delving into these deeper, harder topics,” he said.

She formed the Death with Dignity organization in Maine and spearheaded the push to adopt the legislation.

“Frankly, there are just some ways that people die that conventional care cannot provide comfort for,” she went on to say.

To qualify under Maine law, a patient should:

  • Must be an adult resident of the state.
  • Diagnosed with the fatal disease with a six-month prognosis.
  • Be of sound mind and make an informed judgment.
  • Capable of self-ingesting medicines.

The law also includes safeguards:

  • The patient must submit two vocal requests and one written request, with a waiting period in between.
  • Two witnesses must affirm that the patient is acting voluntarily.

“These are folks who know they’re dying anyway,” Lovelace added, and “they want to have control.”

From 2019 to 2022, 117 Maine citizens received and took life-ending medicine. The majority of them had cancer. Others had conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, and Parkinson’s Disease.

Some religions and doctors still oppose it.

The American Medical Association, for example, has two positions: one “powerfully expresses the perspective of those who oppose physician-assisted suicide.” Another, more modern viewpoint, “articulates the thoughtful moral basis for those who support assisted suicide.”

Other big medical organizations hate the term “assisted suicide” and have instead chosen the phrase “medical aid in dying” to demonstrate their support.

“We have to do our homework and make end-of-life plans that make sense and make meaning for us and our families,” added Lovelace.

The 2023 Death with Dignity report to the Maine Legislature is anticipated later this month.

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