A bill supporting physician-assisted suicide has been tabled by the state legislature, with the intent that it will be reconsidered next year. House Bill 391, called the Utah Death with Dignity Act, was introduced last week by Salt Lake City Democratic Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck. The bill would allow certain qualified terminally-ill adults to take their own life through a self-administered prescription drug. Chavez-Houck said that this is not the same as euthanasia.
“I would argue that it’s not euthanasia because euthanasia is when the physician administers the medication. This is self-administered, self-determined by the patient,” she said. “So, they would get the prescription from their physician and at the time they believe they would like to take it, they would ingest it themselves.”
Under the bill, patients with no more than six months to live may obtain a lethal dose of pain killers with the written recommendation of two doctors. According to Chavez-Houck, there are provisions in the bill allowing doctors to intervene to stop a suicide if they feel the patient is coerced, depressed, or incapable to understanding their actions. She said that she understands the concerns many have about physician-assisted suicide.
“When I presented it last week in committee, I told my colleagues, ‘I know this is going to take some time for us to work through, let’s take it into the interim and have further discussion about it.’ I wanted them to hear from the families and I wanted them to hear from people that have concerns about it,” Chavez-Houck said. “Most of the opposition is coming from a number of religious organizations. I understand that and respect that. I have heard from healthcare providers concerned about the legislation and I’ve been adamant about telling them that nobody is going to be compelled to do this.”
Physician-assisted suicide is currently legal in Washington, Oregon, Montana, New Mexico, and Vermont. 16 other states are currently considering legislation on the issue.