AUGUSTA — Members of the Maine House of Representatives recently rejected a bill calling for the legalization of physician assisted suicide in the state.
LD 1065, Patient-Directed Care at the End of Life, would have allowed terminally ill patients to ingest lethal medication to hasten their death.
“This bill authorizes a patient who is terminally ill and the patient’s physician or the medical director of the patient’s hospice care provider to sign companion documents that will guide the provision of health care to the patient and the provision of care at the end of life,” the legislation outlines. “The companion documents establish the choices and directives of the patient and the responsibilities of the physician or medical director.”
Doctors would be freed from any criminal sanction or liability for carrying out the patient’s death wish.
The bill’s sponsor, Independent Representative Joseph Brooks, participated in the emotional debate that took place on the House floor prior to the vote. He spoke of his own father in making a case for the legislation.
“Dignity was important to this mill laborer,” Brooks said, according to the Bangor Daily News. “Had he been aware that he was lying in a hospital bed in the living room of his home not in control of anything, he would have probably said, ‘Please help me with this.’”
However, Representative Deborah Sanderson, when speaking of her mother’s passing, came to the opposite conclusion.
“I sat with my mom the last five days of her life. I slept in a wheelchair by her bed,” she explained. “The night before my mother passed, my mother said, ‘It’s not like what I thought it would be.’ She said, ‘It’s peaceful.’ And I was very glad to hear that.”
After approximately an hour of debate, the bill was overwhelmingly defeated, with a final tally of 95-43.
The move comes just over a week after Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed the “Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act” into law, a deed that he has vowed to perform for years.
“Vermonters who face terminal illness and are in excruciating pain at the end of their lives now have control over their destinies,” he stated. “This is the right thing to do.”
However, pro-life groups lamented the enactment of the new law.
“This, in our opinion, is a terrible thing to have happen to our state,” said Gerald McMurray of True Dignity Vermont, “because it sort of sanctions suicide as a way of dealing with many end-of-life health care issues.”
Assisted suicide was on the ballot in 1990 in Maine, but was defeated by voters. The Health and Human Services Committee also overwhelmingly rejected Brooks’ legislation last month by a vote of 10 to 2.
The bill will now move to the state Senate for a vote.