By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
The Maine assisted suicide law came into effect in September 2019.
According to the 2020 Maine assisted suicide report, the first full year of the Maine regime:
- 50 people were approved for death by lethal drugs,
- 30 people died by assisted suicide,
- 15 of the 50 people died a natural death and
- One death, it was unknown whether the person died by assisted suicide or not.
When the cause of death is unknown, it may be an unreported assisted suicide death.
The data from the Maine assisted suicide report is sparse, at best.
The report does not indicate if anyone was sent for mental health or capacity assessment, or how often the doctor was present at the death, or even time-frame from the time of ingestion to death.
In 2019, in Oregon, the time of death ranged from 1 minute to 47 hours, while in 2020 the time of death ranged from 6 minutes to 8 hours.
The Maine report does indicate that 49 of the 50 people who were approved for assisted suicide were white, which is similar to other jurisdictions.
The majority of those approved for assisted suicide had cancer, but 6 people had “other illnesses.” There is no indication what the other illnesses were. In Oregon people with diabetes have died by assisted suicide.
The language of the report.
It is insidious that the Maine report refers to assisted suicide deaths as dying by patient choice. Nothing in the report assures us that these deaths were by patient choice.
The self-reporting system is designed to protect the doctor who participate in assisted suicide; it does not assure us that the law has been followed –a doctor that approves the death, is the same doctor who writes the lethal prescription, is the same doctor who sends the assisted suicide report to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and does not provide a third-party independent system that assures us that the law has been followed.
The doctor that is required to send in the report is not required to be present at the death.
It is important to re-iterate what assisted suicide is. Assisted suicide is an act whereby a one person (usually a doctor) agrees that a person’s qualifies to die by suicide and prescribes the lethal drugs for the act. The death ensues by lethal drugs.
We oppose assisted suicide because the law gives the power to a person (usually a doctor) to be involved with causing the death of another person.
It is not safe for the law to give anyone the right to be involved with causing the death of another person.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.