By Chris Haring

Five years after Maine passed the Death with Dignity Act, we revisit Val Lovelace’s contributions and the state’s journey toward legal medical aid in dying.

June marks the fifth anniversary of the Death with Dignity Act’s ratification into law in Maine. Although significant challenges have marked the journey to legalizing physician-assisted death in the state, thanks to staunch advocacy and a commitment to compassionate end-of-life options, Mainers suffering from terminal illnesses have been able to access medical aid in dying for the last several years. 

Val Lovelace has been a champion for physician-assisted death

Val Lovelace has been central to this effort, whose work has profoundly impacted the lives of many. Her dedication to the aid-in-dying movement stemmed from personal experiences and a deep commitment to ensuring that terminally ill individuals have the right to choose a dignified end. As highlighted in our previous story on Val, she eventually founded and became Executive Director of Maine Death with Dignity.

In a recent article from Caroline LeCour for News Center Maine, Val reflects on how the legislation’s impact has reflected its original goal. “If we can consciously be aware of the fact that our lives will come to a close, I think there can be such a thing as a beautiful death,” she said.

The legislative journey toward and subsequent impact of Death with Dignity in Maine

Maine’s path to passing the Death with Dignity Act began long before it became law in 2019, and not without opposition. Even after its implementation, the Maine Death with Dignity website states that opponents attempted to repeal it by gathering signatures. However, their efforts proved unsuccessful, highlighting the strong support for the law among Maine’s residents and legislators.

According to reported data from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, from 2020 through 2023, 230 Mainers died after requesting medical aid in dying. Nearly three-quarters of them died using the Death with Dignity medication, and most of the rest died from an underlying illness. 

Learn more about who has used medical aid in dying in Maine

For those interested in learning more, the state’s report on the Act (available on our State Report Navigator) offers a comprehensive overview of its impact and the demographics of those who have utilized this end-of-life option. 

Please visit this page for a broader account of the history and progression of Death with Dignity in Maine.