Most readers have no doubt had interaction with an individual who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness – though each individual’s journey is different, a common theme is often pain, suffering, and medical interference in an attempt to reduce these symptoms. Though noble attempts are made, in the case of a terminal illness these efforts are ultimately in vain.
Some states have opted to allow their citizens a legal way to die with dignity by allowing their residents to decide the time and place of their passing and allowing friends and loved one’s options for closure while an individual is still of sound mind.
Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck (Democrat – Salt Lake City) is attempting, once again, to pass legislation that would allow the citizens of Utah to have this option with the introduction of HB 76 – End of Life Options Act.
[pullquote]The right to take one’s own life is a profoundly personal one, and one that those facing their final days won’t take lightly. One of the many decisions an individual will have to resolve when making this ultimate decision is their relationship with their God; however, it is not the state’s duty to decide this for them.[/pullquote]The bill actually mirrors legislation from last year and the year prior and would set up the legal and structural framework to allow a very specific set of people to be allowed to legally chose the time of their passing.
Chavez-Houck’s legislation would allow adults of sound mind to request medication that is designed to allow for a peaceful passing within a matter of hours after consumption. The individual must be suffering from a terminal illness and is reasonably expected to live for six months or less.
Once an initial request is made to a physician, a “cooling off” period of 15 days is required before any further action takes place. If the patient again requests to choose the time and place of their passing, the attending physician can then begin the process of acquiring the necessary medication to allow for the patient to choose when they wish to pass. At a minimum, this process takes another 48 hours, and the physician has to make it abundantly clear that the patient can opt-out of the decision at any time prior to the start of the process. Furthermore, if a doctor feels that further counseling is necessary, they can delay the process while an evaluation takes place.
Though 2015’s legislation came out late in the session, lawmakers had plenty of time to consider 2016’s bill; that legislation was unceremoniously returned to Rules by a vote of 11-0. As in previous years, religious organizations such as the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (who have raised objections in the past) will no doubt have concerns about this year’s legislation.
One of the many decisions an individual will have to resolve when making this ultimate decision is their relationship with their God – but this is a personal decision and one that only the individual should resolve after much reflection – it is not the state’s duty to decide this for them.
Indeed, it is worth repeating that our state laws are secular ones – and one of the tenants of Utah’s government has always been the preservation of personal liberty. If the right to life is indeed a fundamental liberty, then it logically follows that an individual of sound mind also has a fundamental right to end their own life, especially under such extreme circumstances.
As we noted last year, the general public supports right-to-die legislation, with 63 percent of Utahns in favor of the option for ill patients. We, therefore, repeat our call and hope that this legislation receives a vigorous debate that the people are allowed to hear and weigh in on.
The right to take one’s own life is a profoundly personal one, and one that those facing their final days won’t take lightly. Under these very specific circumstances, lawmakers should not deny those of sound mind the ability to end their life on their own terms. If an individual is allowed to die with dignity, who is the state to stand in their way?
To contact Representative Chavez-Houck, click here or call 801-891-9292 (Cell)
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