Maine Activists Defeat Assisted Suicide proposal for fifth time.
By Mike Reynolds
Ability Maine Staff
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
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
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.