Maine Rejects Bill to Become Fourth State Legalizing Assisted Suicide

State   Steven Ertelt   Jun 3, 2013   |   11:59AM    Augusta, ME

On Friday, Maine legislators soundly rejected a bill that would have made the state the fourth to legalize assisted suicide — following Oregon, Washington and Vermont.

Euthanasia activists have targeted more liberal states with their agenda to push assisted suicide on patients, seniors, the disabled and others rather than provide them with better mental health care, medical care and support they need.

The Maine House on Friday rejected the bill to allow terminally ill patients to order lethal doses of medication from their doctors and kill themselves. House members voted 95-43 against the measure, which Rep. Joseph Brooks, an independent, sponsored.

From a report on the vote:

Brooks’ bill, LD 1065, would allow a patient and his or her doctor to sign companion end-of-life care agreements. Those agreements would be signed after the two have discussed the patient’s medical condition and treatment options and the patient has rejected life-extending treatments and agreed to accept “care that is ordered or delivered by the physician that may hasten or bring about the patient’s death.”

The bill also would free doctors from criminal liability or the possibility of professional discipline for helping a consenting patient end his or her life.

The vote followed an emotional debate on the House floor in which lawmakers described their experiences caring for parents and friends as their lives ended.

But in letting doctors administer lethal doses of medication, the assisted-suicide bill would go too far, said Rep. Ann Dorney, D-Norridgewock. End-of-life care has changed for the better in recent years, said Dorney, a physician.

“We have very good end-of-life care. We have very good hospice care. We have very good palliative care,” she said. “I guess I’m not sure we need this bill.”

Dorney also worried about the prospect of a guardian who makes medical decisions for a patient making the decision to end that patient’s life.

Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea, said she wouldn’t want to rob a patient of a natural end to life.

“I sat with my mom the last five days of her life. I slept in a wheelchair by her bed,” Sanderson said. “The night before my mother passed, my mother said, ‘It’s not like what I thought it would be.’ She said, ‘It’s peaceful.’ And I was very glad to hear that.”

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In May, with Governor Peter Shumlin’s signature on a bill the state legislature approved, Vermont became the third state to legalize assisted suicide.

The new legislation “lays the foundation for deadly acts disguised as ‘care,’” noted Americans United for Life president Charmaine Yoest. “Physician-assisted suicide does not affirm the life or dignity of individuals facing serious illness or death.  Instead, it opens the door to abuses and dangers for extremely vulnerable individuals.”

“This legislation provides incentives for physicians and even family members to pressure vulnerable people into dying for the convenience of others,” she said.

AUL’s legal team noted that the law fails to include some of the most basic legal protections for those considering physician-assisted suicide.

The organization told LifeNews that a physician who has only examined a patient one time is permitted to prescribe life-ending drugs to the patient.  Further, the physician is not required to refer the patient for an evaluation by a psychiatrist to determine if the patient is depressed or being coerced to end his or her life.  The law also does not require witnesses to be present when the patient takes a life-ending medication, increasing the possibility that persons who may wish to hasten a patient’s death might be with the patient and pressure the patient to end his or her life or even administer the drugs themselves.

“America has prided itself in affirming the worth and dignity of the elderly and disabled,” observed Yoest. “This kind of law undermines the humanity of the vulnerable, encouraging a cost-analysis approach to life rather than affirming the humanity of the sufferer.”

A helpline has been launched for patients who feel pressured into an assisted suicide.