Friday, March 22, 2024

Maine assisted suicide report - the law lacks effective oversight.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

An article by Jon Chrisos that was published on March 19, 2024 by WTMW News states that there were 117 assisted suicide deaths in the first four years of the Maine assisted suicide law. While the article by Chrisos promotes assisted suicide, it encouraged me to take a deeper look into the Maine assisted suicide data.

Since the issue of assisted suicide concerns life and death decisions one would think that the law would have a high degree of oversight. The 2022 Maine assisted suicide report states:

There were 61 patients who started the process to self-direct end of life care; however, two patients died before making their written request and another did not complete the process after making the first oral request. The remaining 58 patients met all the requirements of the Act. At the time of this report, four death certificates could not be found on record and there was no record of any person rescinding the request. It was confirmed with the attending physician that these patients are still alive.

Of the 58 people who received the lethal poison, there were 4 people with no death certificate.

A little further down on the page the report states that of the 54 people who died (58 - 4) 40 died by assisted suicide, 13 died a natural death and the cause of death was unknown in 1 death.

There is 1 case where a person was prescribed the lethal poison and died but the cause of death was unknown. When the cause of death is unknown the person may have died by assisted suicide or a natural death.

The same reporting problem exists in every state that has legalized assisted suicide. My recent article on the Oregon 2023 assisted suicide report indicates that 367 people reportedly died by assisted suicide in Oregon and the ingestion status was unknown in 141 cases. Therefore the Oregon data indicates that 141 people received the lethal poison and their ingestion status was unknown. The report then states that of the 141 people, who's ingestion status is unknown, 41 were known to have died but their ingestion status was still unknown.

Did these people die by assisted suicide or by a natural death?

One would think that a high degree of oversight is necessary when lethal poison is prescribed to a person with the intention of causing their death. 

Whether it be one person or 41 people who died, when the ingestion status is unknown, it is a serious concern and it indicates that the law lacks effective oversight.

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