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, the AP reports.
Maine's bill allows doctors to prescribe a fatal dose of medication to terminally ill people. The bill 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 bill passed by just one vote in the House and a slim margin in the Senate. In addition to Washington, DC, the other states with similar laws are California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and New Jersey, whose governor signed the legislation earlier this year. Montana allows assisted suicide, but doesn't have a law on the books. (In the Netherlands, one of every 22 deaths happens via euthanasia.)