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Bill allowing fatal prescriptions defeated again; Utah lawmaker says she will keep sponsoring until it passes

First Published      Last Updated Feb 25 2016 07:21 pm

After a panel of Utah lawmakers rejected her proposal to allow life-ending medication for terminal patients on Thursday, an emotional Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck said she would not give up on the bill.

"I will continue to fight," the Salt Lake City Democrat said. "It will be back until this gets passed."

The House Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously to recommend an interim study of Chavez-Houck's bill, known as the End of Life Options Act.

That means the End of Life Options Act will likely return to Utah's Legislature next year, though the terminal Utahns who advocated for the bill may not.




"I have a very short time," said Carrie Snyder, a Salt Lake City resident diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. "This is about me fighting for my life and making it as beautiful and amazing and as powerful as it can be."

This is the second time consideration of Chavez-Houck's bill has been delayed with interim study. And last year, she said, interim hearings were largely consumed by discussion of medical marijuana.

Still, she added, the additional time has allowed lawmakers to hear from terminal patients, whose personal stories are crucial to changing attitudes on end-of-life health care.

"The only person that knows how they feel at the end of their lives and what they want is the patients themselves," Chavez-Houck said.

But death affects more than just the individual patient, argued several opponents of the bill who testified at Thursday's hearing.

Maryann Christensen, executive director of the Utah Eagle Forum, said allowing someone to obtain a fatal prescription would "fracture" family members who disagree with the patient's decision to end his or her life.

"These times help families to grow closer together," she said of a patient's final days. "They teach nurturing and compassion."

And Laura Bunker, director of the Utah chapter of United Families International, said life-ending prescriptions can lead to a contagion of suicide and leave behind a trail of negative consequences for families, physicians and society.

"United Families does not believe that the way to end suffering is to end the sufferer," Bunker said. "Our loved ones that are suffering need reasons to live, not reasons to die."

Snyder was critical of comparisons to suicide, and emphasized that she desires to live.

"I have not chosen to die," she said. "That has been chosen for me."

She said she has outlived her original prognosis by over a year, and might not ever take a fatal prescription even if it were available.

But, she added, she wants the freedom to make a choice about her death if and when her quality of life deteriorates.

"I want to end my life while I am still connected and lucid and can show my family and loved ones how much they mean to me," she said.

bwood@sltrib.com

Twitter: @bjaminwood

 

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