Utah lawmaker’s ‘End of Life’ bill could turn into a ballot initiative

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that allows terminally ill patients to end their own lives could fail in the Utah State Legislature and return as a ballot initiative.

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City. (FOX 13 file image)

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, re-introduced House Bill 210, which allows terminally ill patients to obtain the necessary prescriptions to take their own lives. The bill has been introduced in years past, but has failed to advance in the Utah State Legislature.

The controversial legislation creates criteria for terminally ill patients seeking aid in dying. They must have a physician sign off, there’s a waiting period, there’s written and oral consent that must be given (and can be rescinded), and it prohibits assistance — specifically, euthanasia or a “mercy killing.”

Rep. Chavez-Houck said if the bill gets a hearing in committee, she intends to bring patients who want this as an option for them to testify. The bill has faced fierce opposition from some groups including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who branded it “euthanasia” and the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake that mounted a mailer campaign against it.

If it fails, Rep. Chavez-Houck told FOX 13 she intended to work to see her bill transformed into a ballot initiative.

“We’re going to get this passed one way or another because the majority of Utahns support this,” she said. “If the legislature chooses not to listen to that we’ll look at other pathways.”

Ballot initiatives have gained traction in Utah lately, particularly with issues the state legislature has failed to advance. Signature gathering is under way for to get medical marijuana, Medicaid expansion, a tax hike for education, independent redistricting and rules for candidates to qualify to elections on the 2018 ballot.