New England

Maine Gov. Janet Mills Considers Death With Dignity Bill

Maine lawmakers have approved a bill allowing physician assisted suicide in the state.

The proposed "death with dignity" law allows someone 18 or older who is suffering from terminal illness to request medication ending their life from a willing doctor.

A number of protections and restrictions exist in the bill to make sure the person requesting the medication is the one making the choice and is terminally ill.

The proposal passed the Democratic-led state Senate 19-16 on Tuesday, and the Democratic-led House had approved it Monday by the narrowest of margins, 73-72.

"It gives you , it gives me, the chance to make that decision on our own," said Democratic state Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick, a staunch supporter of the bill and former physician. "We make many personal choices, and this should be one of them."

A number of Maine lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, disagree with Gratwick and other supporters.

"I think life is valuable and is precious and should be preserved till the very end," said Republican state Sen. Lisa Keim.

Keim is also concerned the bill could be used to abuse elderly Mainers, who she believes could be peer pressured by relatives into choosing to die so the relatives can inherit money.

These are the factors Democratic Gov. Janet Mills is now considering. She has nine more days to act on the bill and has not indicated whether she will let it become law.

Asked if she'll sign the plan into law on Thursday, Mills said she's "not really sure."

"I'm still looking at it," she said. "I want to make sure people aren't making decisions about whether they live or die based on access to care. That wouldn't be fair."

Other governors have vetoed similar bills in the past but former lawmakers, like Republican Roger Katz, believe the outcome in 2019 will be different.

"My guess is Gov. Mills will not veto this bill. It will go into law with or without her signature," said Katz, formerly a Maine state senator.

Should Mills veto the legislation, lawmakers have said there will likely be a citizens' initiative putting the issue in front of voters at the ballot box.

If it becomes law, Maine would be the second New England state after Vermont to legalize death with dignity.

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