If you or a loved one have questions about end-of-life law in Utah, you’re in good company. Perhaps you’ve read about stories focused on a patient’s right to die. Maybe someone you love is dealing with a devastating terminal illness. You may have questions about the legal issues surrounding what’s sometimes called mercy killings or euthanasia.
Euthanasia is the legal term for allowing or enabling the death of a hopelessly ill person. Most states ban euthanasia. In this post, we discuss Utah’s legal position on euthanasia.
Euthanasia is one of the most frequently debated legal topics in Utah. It may be called physician-assisted suicide because some doctors previously prescribed drugs to help their terminally ill patients die. The laws of Utah prohibit outright mercy killings, but physicians are allowed to withdraw or restrict life-sustaining treatments in some situations. Utah Code 75-21-122, the Advance Health Care Directive Act, states that assisted suicide, euthanasia, or mercy killing isn’t authorized in Utah. The physician may withdraw or withhold procedures that are life-sustaining without facilitating the patient’s decision to end his or her life. The U.S. Supreme Court previously ruled (1997) that the government maintains an interest in preventing the intentional death of its citizens. It is focused on preserving its citizens’ lives. The citizen may have an interest in choosing when, how, and where to die. Therefore, no constitutionally upheld right to doctor-assisted suicide is available. Like many other states, Utah recognizes the difference between the doctor’s proactive methods or measures to end the patient’s life. These actions are illegal in most states. However, Utah’s law allows the physician to passively remove or refuse the patient’s access to life-saving treatments and medicines. If you or someone you love needs legal help concerning terminal health care or end-of-life matter, it’s best to contact an experienced Utah health care lawyer. If you need help with drafting a will or trust, estate administration, asset protection, or anything else concerning end-of-life law matters, we’re standing by to assist you.
Utah legislators didn’t pass a death with dignity proposal that would’ve permitted a terminally ill individual to ask for lethal life-ending drugs. In 2020, Utah’s End of Life Option Act (HB93) was considered. An earlier poll showed that almost 70 percent of Utah citizens support death with dignity; the bill didn’t go to hearings. Had it succeeded, Utah’s law might have looked like the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. This law allows terminally ill people to ask for and use suicide-assisting medicines. In 2018, Utah legislators passed laws that amend the manslaughter statute. That is, it’s a crime for a Utah health care professional to prescribe medicines to cause death [Utah Code Ann. § 76-5-205 (2021)]. If you or someone you love faces end-of-life matters in Utah, there are some steps to take now.
It’s possible to refuse medicines or treatments that sustain life in Utah. You have the legal right to direct your healthcare provider or facility to avoid feeding tubes, respirators, and the like by creating an advance health care directive. An experienced Utah health care attorney will help you to make your health care wishes known at the end of life. Contact Terry Spencer at TR Spencer & Associates at 1-801-566-1884 to learn more.