Death with Dignity: Utah Still Grappling over End-of-Life Legislation

Death with Dignity: Utah Still Grappling over End-of-Life Legislation

When a loved one is in pain and suffering from a terminal illness or injury, it is one of the most heartbreaking and difficult things to deal with in life, both for you and the suffering patient. The pain can become intolerable, and many patients believe that they have a right to decide when they have had enough.

Death with Dignity laws permit terminally-ill adults who are qualified by their condition to request and receive prescription medication to peacefully and painfully end their own lives.

The states with Death with Dignity statutes on the books are California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. The Montana Supreme Court made a ruling to legalize physician-assisted death, but does not yet have a statute. Chavez-Houck's proposal, like Oregon’s statute, requires that patients be mentally competent adults with an "irreversible and incurable illness that will result in the patient's death in six months or less."

Two physicians would have to confirm the patient’s terminal condition, and patients must be told about "all feasible alternative treatment options," according to the bill. They must also be able to give the drugs to themselves without assistance. Other individuals, including the physician, cannot administer the drugs.

The proposal, which is called the H.B 76 End of Life Options Act Utah Death with Dignity Act, was once again voted down and shelved for the third year in a row. The bill has drawn huge support from many suffering patients in intense pain, but a lot of concern from many others.

Carrie Snyder, a terminally ill patient, testified in favor of Chavez-Houck’s proposal. Key points she mentioned in favor of the bill were as follows:

“As Utah's end-of-life choices currently stand, I will be lost to starvation, dehydration and morphine,"
Snyder said. She also pleaded with legislators, begging for a solution to help patients like and
"that there can be another way for the end of life to look — one that looks more humane to many of us."

According to an article that appeared on, Dan Jones and Associates conducted a poll that revealed that 58 percent of Utahns favored right-to-die legislation. Despite the majority’s sentiment, numerous lawmakers have not agreed to approve legislation to make it legal., including Republican Representative and physician Edward Redd.

“You know, when you’re talking about giving a prescription to a patient with the intention that the patient is going to take her or his own life, that’s kind of a big deal to me,”
said physician and Republic Representative Edward Redd.

Since he is a Mormon and doctor, Redd says he welcome the discussion, but he is unable to support any end-of-life legalization. The LDS Church website states that the church opposes what they define as 'euthanasia' or 'assisted suicide.'

The Deseret News discussed the third attempt by Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake to get end-of-life legislation passed in Utah. She promotes allowing terminally ill patients to end their lives with drugs prescribed by a physician.

Attorneys Terry Spencer and Gavin Jensen, of T.R. Spencer Law Office, are experienced estate and end-of-life planning lawyers who are here to help you with your personal legal needs. Call us at 801-556-1884 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to speak with us.

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