November 16, 2019
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Maine voters could be asked to approve doctor-assisted suicide

Brian Feulner | BDN
Brian Feulner | BDN
Proponents of doctor-assisted suicide have launched a petition drive to force a statewide vote on the issue.

Proponents of doctor-assisted suicide have launched a petition drive to force a statewide referendum on the so-called “death with dignity” act.

Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, said Tuesday that the doctor-assisted suicide effort is still in the application stage.

It is being spearheaded by Valerie Lynn Lovelace of Westport Island. The other signatories on the application are Rep. Patricia Hymanson, D-York; Eileen Fingerman of Sidney; Kenneth VanWormer of Mattamiscontis Township; Eva Thompson of Camden; and Millie Jones-Farnham of East Boothbay.

The bill would enact the Maine Death with Dignity Act, which allows adults who meet certain qualifications, to request a prescription for the purpose of ending their lives. The process leading to that would include waiting periods, a series of official requests by the patient and a second opinion about the patient’s medical prognosis. There are also a range of other proposed protections.

The effort comes after multiple failed attempts to implement a physician-assisted suicide law in the Legislature. Earlier this year, Republican Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta proposed a bill that garnered a 16-15 vote of support in the Senate but failed 85-61 in the House. Katz sponsored a similar bill in 2015, which passed in the House but failed in the Republican-controlled Senate. Among the opponents of the bill is Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

Muszynski said a second, unrelated petition is also advancing. Petition forms, which are used to collect signatures of registered Maine voters, were expected to be issued to the Maine People’s Alliance, which supports a universal home health care measure that was announced last month.

It proposes a new payroll tax for employees who make more than $127,200 annually — 1.9 percent for the employer and employee for a total of 3.8 percent — to fund a Home Care Universal Trust Fund. The fund would provide daily living services for people older than 65 and people with disabilities, regardless of their income.

Both efforts have 18 months from the date their petitions are issued to collect at least 61,123 signatures from verified Maine voters. In most cases, successful signature-gathering leads to a statewide referendum. The Legislature, however, could opt to enact the bills without a referendum.

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Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Eva Thompson’s name.


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