This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A Salt Lake City lawmaker is proposing a Death with Dignity Act, which would let patients with terminal or "intractable and unbearable" diseases ask doctors to help them die.
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, a Democrat, introduced HB391 on Tuesday. The bill is modeled on a ballot measure that passed in Oregon 20 years ago.
Patients would have to sign written requests for the assistance. Doctors would assess each patient physically and to ensure they are making the request voluntarily. Eventually, a doctor would write a prescription for lethal medication, but the patient would administer it.
No physician could be punished for refusing to participate, according to the bill.
"This is about giving people the right to spend their last moments surrounded by family as they peacefully exit this life and go into the next," Chavez-Houck said in a press release. "Patients facing aggressive terminal illness should be the ultimate deciders of their care and fate, whenever possible, in their own time and on their terms."
Including the option to have a physician's help in dying would refocus the discussion on what's best for the patient, she said, whether that is pain management, hospice or other end-of-life measures.
Gov. Gary Herbert said he's concerned about such a measure "morphing into really a right to suicide."
"I would not want this to be something that really is a Kevorkian scheme that has the unintended consequence where someone says 'Life is tough, I'm old … so they have a right to end their life in some form or fashion."
But, Herbert noted, he has not seen the specific legislation.
The bill had not been scheduled for a committee hearing as of Tuesday afternoon.