Augusta, ME (ProlifeInfo.org) -- November 8, 2000 -- Voters in Maine have rejected a state initiative to legalize assisted suicide, keeping Maine from becoming the second state in the nation to allow doctors to legally help patients die. Maine voters defeated the proposal 330,831 to 313,454, or 51-49%.
"We were behind by 50 points five weeks ago," Gordon H. Smith, executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association, said in a telephone interview shortly before 2 a.m. today after a local TV station declared the question defeated. The Maine Medical Association helped lead the fight against the assisted suicide initiative along with pro-life and religious organizations.
"We'd certainly rather win than lose, but this victory puts more of an onus on the medical community to improve end-of-life" conditions for patients, Smith said.
National Right to Life, in conjunction with the National Legal Center for the Medically Dependent and Disabled, mailed detailed information about the flaws and faults of the assisted suicide proposal to every household in Maine. Many election experts are crediting that effort as one of the big reasons why voters rejected the initiative.
Michael Bowman, vice president of government affairs for the Family Research Council, which opposed the suicide measure, lauded the outcome in what he called Maine's "very hard-fought campaign."
With the vote in Maine, Oregon will remain the only state in the nation that allows assisted suicide. Oregon approved the law in 1994; but, because of legal challenges, the Death With Dignity Act in Oregon did not become law until 1997. To date, 43 persons have been killed in Oregon. Michigan voters defeated a similar measure in 1998. They apparently were fed up with the exploits of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who is in jail for assisting in the suicide of a man with Lou Gehrig's disease on Sept. 17, 1998.
Randolph D. Smoak, Jr., MD, president of the American Medical Association, made the following comments:
"The American Medical Association (AMA) is pleased that Maine voters have endorsed physicians' fundamental obligation 'to do no harm' by defeating a flawed ballot initiative that would have turned healers away from their primary purpose.
"The Maine Medical Association and the Maine Citizens Against the Dangers of Physician-Assisted Suicide are to be commended for their work in upholding the notion that terminally-ill patients should not be abandoned.
"The work of these concerned organizations to oppose the legalization of physician-assisted suicide certainly has prevented the introduction of deep ambiguity into the very definition of medical care."