Maine becomes 8th state to legalize assisted suicide

/ AP

Maine legalized medically assisted suicide on Wednesday, becoming the eighth state to allow terminally ill people to end their lives with prescribed medication. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who had previously said she was unsure about the bill, signed it in her office.

"It is my hope that this law, while respecting the right to personal liberty, will be used sparingly," said Mills.

Oregon was the first state to legalize such assistance, in 1997, and it took over a decade for the next state, Washington, to follow suit. While still controversial, assisted suicide legislation is winning increasing acceptance in the United States, and this year at least 18 states considered such measures.

Trending News

Maine's measure will allow doctors to prescribe a fatal dose of medication to terminally ill people. It declares that obtaining or administering life-ending medication is not suicide under state law, thereby legalizing the practice often called medically assisted suicide.

The proposal had failed once in a statewide referendum and at least seven previous times in the Legislature. The current measure passed by just one vote in the House and a slim margin in the Senate.

The signing Wednesday was a relief to Mainers such as Staci Fowler, 47, who's taken on the fight for such laws in honor of her late friend Rebecca VanWormer.

VanWormer, whose breast cancer spread to her bones, had pushed for such a bill in 2015 — two years before she died in 2017.

"This is what she wanted," said Fowler, an educational consultant in Gardiner. "And now everybody has the option that she didn't have."

Maine joins seven other states and Washington, D.C., that have similar laws, according to the Death With Dignity National Center and the Death With Dignity Political Fund. The states are: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and New Jersey, whose governor signed the legislation earlier this year.

Montana doesn't have a specific law on the books, but the state Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that doctors could use a patient's request for life-ending medication as a defense against criminal charges.

Maine's population has the oldest median age, and, as in other states, the proposal has exposed divisions that defied party lines.

Supporters, including Democrats and a small group of Republicans who say the legislation is in line with the rugged state's tradition of individualism, say the terminally ill should have the right to choose how their lives end.

The governor said she believes the law should protect such rights, while also spelling out protections for those "unable to articulate their informed choices."

She issued an executive order Wednesday calling for the state to swiftly put the law's protections into place and analyze the law's impact.

Opponents, meanwhile, have said any assisted suicide legislation puts the terminally ill and individuals with disabilities in danger of abuse, coercion and mistakes. Such groups argue that doctors can be wrong and that government is devaluing life by "turning suicide into a medical option."

"Do you think the insurance companies will do the right thing or the cheap thing?" said Teresa McCann-Tumidajski, executive director of the Maine Right to Life Committee. "The so-called safeguards are there for the physicians, insurance carriers and lawyers. Not the patient."

As more states slowly pass similar laws, critics nationwide argue that government should simply never wade into such issues.

"Assisted suicide is a dangerous public policy that puts the most vulnerable people in society at risk for abuse, coercion and mistakes," said Matt Valliere, Executive Director of Patients Rights Action Fund, an advocacy group. "It also provides profit-driven insurance companies perverse incentives to offer a quick death, rather than costly continuing quality care."

The law's Democratic sponsor said the latest language addresses criticism of past efforts that have failed in Maine.

The legislation defines "terminal disease" as one that is incurable and will likely end in death within six months.

The law requires a second opinion by a consulting physician, along with one written and two verbal requests. Physicians would screen patients for conditions that could impair judgment, such as depression.

The law criminalizes coercing someone into requesting life-ending medication, as well as forging a request for life-ending medication.

First published on June 13, 2019 / 7:33 AM

© 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trump hails Michael Flynn as "war hero" ahead of sentencing

Trump said Flynn "has retained a GREAT LAWYER" in Sidney Powell

3M ago

Why attorney for coach who avoided prison in college scam isn't surprised

John Vandemoer will serve two years of supervised release – far less than the 13 months in prison prosecutors had asked for

7M ago

Maine becomes 8th state to legalize assisted suicide

Maine's measure will allow doctors to prescribe a fatal dose of medication to terminally ill people

7M ago

Defense makes stunning revelation in trial of scholar's brutal death

Attorney for a former University of Illinois doctoral student tells jurors that the defense is admitting that their client kidnapped and killed a visiting Chinese scholar in 2017

40M ago

Deadly police shooting in Memphis leads to anger, unrest

Crowd threw rocks and bricks at officers after U.S. Marshals shot suspect; some 25 officers hurt

updated 25M ago

Trump hails Michael Flynn as "war hero" ahead of sentencing

Trump said Flynn "has retained a GREAT LAWYER" in Sidney Powell

3M ago

Maine becomes 8th state to legalize assisted suicide

Maine's measure will allow doctors to prescribe a fatal dose of medication to terminally ill people

7M ago

Virginia Lt. Gov. Fairfax wants criminal probe into allegations against him

Fairfax's attorney says that allegations against their client "should be promptly and fully investigated"

1H ago

2020 hopefuls on Trump comment on taking foreign dirt on foes

In an interview that aired Wednesday, Mr. Trump tod ABC News' George Stephanopoulos "there's nothing wrong with listening" if a foreign actor offered him information on a candidate

7H ago

Joe Biden confirms son Hunter remarried

Hunter, 49, made headlines in 2017 when he began dating Hallie Biden, the widow of his brother, Beau

11H ago

Two oil tankers apparently attacked in Gulf of Oman

U.S. Navy says it's aiding both but Iran reportedly claims it's rescued the vessels' 44 crew members; U.S. Defense Dept. source says Iran is the "likely" source of the attacks

updated 30M ago

North Korea skirting sanctions, according to report sent to UN

The Hermit Kingdom is violating sanctions by importing more oil than is permitted by the United Nations, according to a report obtained by CBS News

11H ago

Russian police arrest hundreds protesting journalist's dubious arrest

Investigative reporter Ivan Golunov was freed unexpectedly just hours before the rally but organizers went ahead anyway, demanding an end to "all such cases in Russia"

15H ago

First Ebola death reported in Uganda as outbreak spreads

A 5-year-old boy vomiting blood became the first cross-border victim of Ebola in the second-deadliest outbreak in history

18H ago

Safety tips for nervous Americans in wake of mysterious tourist deaths

An expert joined "CBS This Morning" to explain why you should buy a local newspaper and tuck it under your arm

18H ago

Cuba Gooding Jr. to turn himself in to police over groping charge

29-year-old woman told New York police the actor grabbed her breast while he was intoxicated at a Manhattan night spot

13H ago

Highest-grossing movies of all time, ranked

What's the highest-grossing movie of all time? It might be one of your favorites

Jun 4 27 photos

The Spice Girls are getting an animated movie

A new movie is coming to spice up your life

13H ago

Mick Jagger "feeling good" and prepping for tour after heart surgery

While recovering, the rocker said he's been preparing with his bandmates for their "No Filter" tour

22H ago

Kendall Jenner's alleged stalker deported back to Canada

John Ford was arrested for trespassing at Jenner's home twice; one time he was found in her swimming pool

Jun 11

CBS News asks Facebook to remove "deep fake" video of Mark Zuckerberg

As of Wednesday evening, the fake video was still viewable, and Facebook said it had evaluated CBS' claim and found no trademark violation

8H ago

NYC to go another year without new Uber and Lyft drivers

The city had originally banned ride-hail apps from signing new drivers last August as part of a plan to raise pay levels

13H ago

He wants to end "energy poverty" around the globe

More than 1 billion people worldwide don't have access to electricity. Henry Louie wants to change that with microgrids.

22H ago

Inside Uber's secret self-driving car testing facility

Uber gives "CBS This Morning" an exclusive look inside the closely guarded test track as the company looks to regain trust after a fatal accident in 2018

Jun 12

Student uses filter to catch cop allegedly seeking underage sex

Police arrested the 40-year-old officer for contacting a minor to commit a felony

13H ago

Earth approaching "meteor swarm" eyed in past impact

Scientists hope to study the Taurid meteor shower closely, in hopes of better predicting the risk of a future impact

19H ago

Study: Nitrates in drinking water linked to cancers

Environmental Working Group says the chemicals could be to blame for over 12,000 cases of cancer in the U.S. each year

Jun 11

Study: One-sixth of marine life at risk from climate change

The study argues losses could be offset by a reduction in carbon pollution

Jun 11

Canada to ban single-use plastics as early as 2021

Inspired by an earlier EU move, Canada's government may ban items like plastic bags, water bottles, straws and earbuds

Jun 11

"Zombie snake" found in U.S. can roll over and play dead

To deter predators, the snake goes belly up and opens its mouth to "play dead," but it's all just a very dramatic act

Jun 11

First Ebola death reported in Uganda as outbreak spreads

A 5-year-old boy vomiting blood became the first cross-border victim of Ebola in the second-deadliest outbreak in history

18H ago

What couples need to know about male infertility

Fertility is often treated as primarily a women's issue, but a third of the time both men and women contribute to infertility, according to the CDC

18H ago

Why "sorry" is such a loaded word for doctors

Nearly 40 states have laws letting physicians apologize for errors without fear of a lawsuit, but big malpractice payouts remain

20H ago

Cheerios, Nature Valley cereals contain Roundup ingredient, study finds

An environmental group says its test results show many glyphosate levels above what it considers safe for children

17H ago

Jail on lockdown due to mumps outbreak

Jail officials said the outbreak involves inmates in the general population and not ICE detainees

Jun 11

NYC to go another year without new Uber and Lyft drivers

The city had originally banned ride-hail apps from signing new drivers last August as part of a plan to raise pay levels

13H ago

Bernie Sanders: Jamie Dimon didn't criticize socialism during Wall St. bailout

JPMorgan CEO rebuked by presidential candidate after saying a socialist course for country would be a "huge mistake"

14H ago

Nearly half of U.S. financial chiefs see recession within a year

Growing economic uncertainty and trade wars have these business leaders preparing for a downturn by mid-2020

15H ago

American farmers suffering under trade war and record rainfall

Last month, the U.S. suffered its second rainiest month on record — much of that fell during the height of planting season

12H ago

Fired LaCroix employee sues over toxic chemical claim

Sparkling beverage brand is in hot water after former exec says he was wrongly dismissed

17H ago

Crime

Protests erupt over Memphis police shooting

A tense standoff between police and residents of a Tennessee neighborhood turned violent overnight after a deadly shooting involving law enforcement. Dozens of protesters took to the streets of Memphis throwing rocks and bricks, injuring at least two dozen officers. The protests started after U.S. marshals shot and killed a man earlier that night. Investigators say the man resisted arrest, and pulled out a weapon.

updated 9M ago 00:27

Defense makes stunning revelation in trial of scholar's brutal death

Attorney for a former University of Illinois doctoral student tells jurors that the defense is admitting that their client kidnapped and killed a visiting Chinese scholar in 2017

40M ago

Deadly police shooting in Memphis leads to anger, unrest

Crowd threw rocks and bricks at officers after U.S. Marshals shot suspect; some 25 officers hurt

updated 25M ago

How to watch "NCIS: The Cases They Can't Forget

The series, hosted by Rocky Carroll, looks at some of the biggest cases handled by the real-life agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service

6H ago

NCIS: Slayings of newlyweds involved "torture, greed"

When NCIS agents and detectives hunt down the killers of a newlywed couple, their identities are almost as shocking as the murders

6H ago

Earth approaching "meteor swarm" eyed in past impact

Scientists hope to study the Taurid meteor shower closely, in hopes of better predicting the risk of a future impact

19H ago

SpaceX launches 3 Earth-observation satellites

The three Radarsat satellites will monitor resources and the effects of climate change across Canada

20H ago

Jupiter's largest moons visible with binoculars in June

NASA has a message for space lovers this month: Look up

Jun 11

Unknown mass larger than Hawaii discovered on moon

Scientist think it could be leftover metal from a previous asteroid strike

Jun 11

Trump criticizes NASA moon plans he approved

In a tweet, the president disparaged NASA's moon mission plan that his administration had endorsed

Jun 7

Tony Awards 2019: Red carpet looks from your favorite stars

See Broadway stars walk the red carpet at Radio City Music Hall in New York City at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards

Jun 9 39 photos

Jayme Closs case: Recently released evidence photos

At Jake Patterson's sentencing hearing, prosecutors showed a select few evidence photos to the court and asked that Patterson be sentenced to life in prison for the murders of Jayme Closs' parents and the 13-year-old's kidnapping

Jun 8 14 photos

Summer music 2019

It's summertime – time for music at festivals and venues across the country

Jun 8 35 photos

11 photos of former NICU babies show how far they've come

These babies proudly hold photos of their former selves to celebrate their amazing progress since graduating from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Jun 5 11 photos

Evidence photos in the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit

Jodi Huisentruit, the morning news anchor at Iowa's KIMT-TV was reported missing on June 27, 1995. Mason City Police are still at work trying to solve this case 23 years later.

Jun 1 26 photos

Popular

Protests erupt over Memphis police shooting

A tense standoff between police and residents of a Tennessee neighborhood turned violent overnight after a deadly shooting involving law enforcement. Dozens of protesters took to the streets of Memphis throwing rocks and bricks, injuring at least two dozen officers. The protests started after U.S. marshals shot and killed a man earlier that night. Investigators say the man resisted arrest, and pulled out a weapon.

updated 9M ago 00:27

Trump appears to invite interference in 2020

In a new interview, President Trump said that he would take information offered by a foreign government about a political opponent. The statement brought immediate howls of outrage from Democrats. Paula Reid reports.

updated 16M ago 03:37

Navy assisting after apparent tanker attack

The U.S. Navy says it is assisting after an apparent attack on two tankers in the Middle East. The incident took place overnight near the Strait of Hormuz, the main artery for transporting oil from the Middle East. Pictures released by Iranian state media show smoke billowing from the ships.A U.S. defense official tells CBS News that Iran is "likely" behind the attack. Imtiaz Tyab reports.

updated 14M ago 02:21

Eye Opener: Trump would take foreign dirt

President Trump says he would "listen" if a foreign government offered information on an opponent. Also, the U.S. Navy says they’re helping two oil tankers they say came under attack. All that and all that matters in today's Eye Opener. Your world in 90 seconds.

updated 14M ago 02:02

First sentence handed down in college admissions scandal

Former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer avoided prison even though prosecutors pushed for a 13 month term. He got more than $600,000 from Rick Singer, the alleged mastermind of the admissions scandal, but used it for boats and gear for the sailing program. Don Dahler reports.

1H ago 01:45