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"Maine Activists Defeat Assisted Suicide Proposal for Fifth Time"

Written By:

Mike Reynolds

For the fifth time in nearly twenty years, the Maine Legislature beat back calls to legalize assisted suicide. The bill, LD 1270, which was modeled after a similar law in Oregon, had renewed support after the highly publicized death of Brittany Maynard; a twenty nine year old woman who was diagnosed with brain cancer and moved to Oregon to carry out her death. Maine was one of 26 states this year to deal with assisted suicide legislation. Other states such as Connecticutdefeated similar legislation this year. California passed a version of assisted suicide this fall, despite an epic fight by activists with disabilities using every tool imaginable to convince Governor Jerry Brown to veto the bill.   Additionally, legislative battles are ongoing in several states, including Massachusetts. Activists with disabilities are against assisted suicide because, they contend, everyone should receive Suicide prevention treatment, regardless of diagnosis.

This bill was vastly different than the bill that was in front of the legislature in 2013, which was the last time an assisted suicide bill was heard in the legislature.  This year’s version, modeled after current Oregon law, saw over 40 people submit written testimony, and a number of others speak without written remarks at a public hearing, making itone of the largest public hearings on any legislative bill this session, with the public hearing lasting several hours.  Several members of the public, from members of the independent living and hospice communities to others such as social psychologists and doctors, spoke adamantly that Maine was not a state where assisted suicide needed to be legalized. By comparison, in 2013, less than 15 people testified on that assisted suicide proposal.

The first work session for this bill was May 22nd, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. The timing of this work session was strange; many folks who were following the law in-state had no idea there was a work session. There were legislative members of the DHHS subcommittee who were not there, but strangely, out of state members of Compassion in Choices, some who traveled as far away as Connecticut where a similar law was recently defeated, were present. The bill was voted on in this first work session as Ought to Pass. This vote was significant as it was the first time an assisted suicide proposal had ever received the endorsement of the DHHS subcommittee.

A week later, a second work session was held with all members of the DHHS subcommittee present, and the bill was voted Ought Not to Pass by the members of the committee. There was very little, if any, publicity about this work session, as the day was devoted to a number of medical cannabis public hearings and work sessions. But with the Ought Not toPass majority vote, the bill would then go from the committee to the Maine Senate, as it was sponsored by Senator Roger Katz. The bill failed to pass the Senate by one vote in mid-June, essentially killing the bill. The bill did pass the Maine House, but that vote was of no consequence due to the Senate vote.

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