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Bill to legalize assisted suicide in Maine heads to governor's desk

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If it passes, Maine would be the eighth state to have such a law in place

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A bill that would legalize doctor-assisted suicide has passed the Maine state House and Senate and is now headed to the desk of Gov. Janet Mills (D).

Here's what we know

The bill narrowly passed Maine's House on Monday by a vote of 73-72 and the state Senate on Tuesday, 19-16.

Mills has not said whether she will sign the bill. Under Maine law, if the governor does not take any action with the bill, either to sign or veto, it will automatically become law after 10 days.

If this bill becomes law, Maine would become the eighth state, along with the District of Columbia, to legalize assisted suicide.

What does the bill say?

According to the text of the bill, a patient seeking to end his own life would have to sign a written request with two witnesses who can both verify that "to the best of their knowledge and belief the patient is competent, is acting voluntarily and is not being coerced to sign the request."

One of the two witnesses has to be someone who isn't related to the patient, is not giving the patient medical care, and won't inherit anything after his death.

The new law would only apply to patients over 18 years old who have been determined by a doctor to have a "terminal disease" that is both "incurable" and would "within reasonable medical judgment, produce death within 6 months."

After signing this statement, the patient has to be examined by a doctor and have the doctor sign off on the suicide. There is also a waiting period of 15 days between the first request and when the written request can be submitted, and of 48 hours between the written request and when a doctor can write a prescription of a lethal dose of medication.

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