Lawmakers decided a proposed "right-to-die" bill needed further study. However, a clear majority of Utahns would approve of legislation allowing a terminally ill patient the right to choose to die.
A new UtahPolicy.com survey finds 63% of Utahns favor allowing patients at the end of their life the ability to elect to die if they were diagnosed as terminal by two doctors. 30% of Utahns would be opposed.
While just under half of Utah Republicans favor the idea (49%), 83% of Democrats and 72% of independent voters say they would.
The issue could be religiously charged, but that's not the case here. Devout Mormons seem split on the topic (48% oppose and 46% favor). However, moderately active and inactive Mormons overwhelmingly favor the idea - 74% of "somewhat active" LDS Church members, and 84% of inactive LDS Church members say they would support the legislation. Catholics and Protestants in our survey are nearly equal in their support (76% and 74% respectively).
The proposed legislation, HB391, from Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, says doctors could prescribe a fatal dose of medication only if a terminal diagnosis were confirmed by two doctors. It also provides for a 15-day waiting period after the prescription is requested.
"National polls show that nearly 70% of Americans support physician aid-in-dying," said Chavez-Houck. "This is a patient-determined, patient-administered option. As such, it is not euthanasia because it is not physician administered. It is not suicide, as the underlying condition is what will be listed as the cause of death. I see this as an opportunity to explore and protect all options and supports for Utahns in end-of-life care."
Proponents of "right-to-die" legislation say it provides a dignified way to end the life of someone who is facing a drawn out and painful death. Opponents say it's tacit to the state condoning suicide.
Lawmakers decided the proposal needed more study over the interim.