‘End of life options’ bill to generate controversy in the Utah legislature

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill that would allow terminally ill patients to take steps to end their own lives has been filed in the Utah State Legislature.

House Minority Whip Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, filed House Bill 264 late Tuesday, which outlines the procedure for a "right to die" in Utah. In an interview with FOX 13 on Wednesday, Chavez-Houck insisted her bill is not "assisted-suicide."

"A lot of these patients, they fiercely want to live, but their terminal illness has taken that choice away from them," she said.

Chavez-Houck said her bill only applies to terminally ill people with six months or less to live. Two doctors would have to sign off on providing the lethal dose of drugs. They could refuse and send the patient to mental health counseling.

"If there's any reason that those physicians have concern, they need to refer that patient for psychological evaluation," Chavez-Houck said.

There is also a 15-day waiting period, she said.

Chavez-Houck ran a similar bill last year that generated opposition. Already, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have said they oppose the legislation.

"We don't think the state, as a matter of public policy, should be encouraging anyone to commit an act of suicide," said Jean Hill, the Catholic Diocese's government liaison.

The LDS Church branded such bills as "euthanasia."

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life, and is therefore opposed to euthanasia. Euthanasia is defined as deliberately putting to death a person who is suffering from an incurable condition or disease. Such a deliberate act ends life immediately through, for example, frequently-termed assisted suicide. Ending a life in such a manner is a violation of the commandments of God," an LDS Church spokesman said in a statement to FOX 13.

Chavez-Houck said she anticipated opposition to her bill, but wants to have a dialogue about a patient's rights.

"What I am expecting is ardent conversation. It's a tender subject, people have very strong feelings on both sides of the issue," she said.

The full text of the bill is available here.