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Assisted suicide legalized

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.

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 honour 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.



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