In recent years, national debate has increased over the issue of people choosing when to take their own life due to terminal illness, to allow them to die with dignity. One lawmaker is seeking to create an option for it in Utah.
HB 264 – End of Life Options Act, sponsored by Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck (Democrat – Salt Lake City), is modeled after similar legislation that was enacted in Oregon in 1997.
HB 264 will only apply to terminally ill people that are expected to only have six months or less to live. The bill requires two doctors to sign off on the prescription cocktail that would allow the individual to end their life, though patients would have to administer the fatal dose themselves. Doctors would also be given the option under the legislation to provide counseling if they feel that it is more appropriate for the patient. Finally, there is also a 15-day waiting period between the patient’s request and the writing of the prescription.
[pullquote]The right to take one’s own life when faced with a terminal illness is a profoundly personal one – One lawmakers wants to make sure that people will have the ability to legally die with dignity.[/pullquote]In 2015, Chavez-Houck ran HB 391 – Utah Death with Dignity Act, however it was introduced late in the session and garnered a lot of criticism. It was ultimately decided to hold the bill for interim study.
HB 264 is sure to follow suit and generate quite a bit of controversy. While questions persist on how life insurance companies would handle such events, other organizations have already indicated their disapproval, such as the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Despite opposition from some religious groups, other evidence suggests the general public does not hold the same opinion. A poll conducted last year by Utah Policy showed that 63 percent of Utahns are in favor of right-to-die legislation.
Regardless of what happens, the matter should be given a vigorous debate in the legislature. This is a very serious issue with very serious ramifications. It ultimately comes down to preserving individual liberty, while ensuring that doctors don’t suffer any consequences for assisting in the ultimate decision a person can make when faced with an incurable disease.
If people are terminally ill and wish to end their own life in a humane and dignified matter, as opposed to wasting away for months in a hospital or nursing home, then why should that option not be available? As long as they aren’t cajoled in any manner and are mentally fit to make decisions, there is really no earthly reason to deprive them of the right to choose their own destiny. “Death with dignity” is just that – allowing people to make that final decision on their own terms.
To contact Representative Chavez-Houck, click here or call 801-891-9292 (Cell)
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