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Politics & Government

A Utah lawmaker is set to run end-of-life legislation again

Jennifer Dailey Provost, D-Salt Lake City
Cory Dinte
/
KUER
Utah Rep. Jennifer Dailey Provost, D-Salt Lake City, pictured at the state Capitol during the 2019 legislative session.

Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, is attempting to bring back a bill that would give people with terminal illness the right to die by getting a prescription from their physician.

Dailey-Provost is planning to run the legislation for a fourth time. She follows in the footsteps of her predecessor, Rebecca Chavez-Houck, who also attempted to pass this kind of legislation.

For Dailey-Provost, it’s an important issue that merits another try. Last year the bill got stuck in the rules committee.

She said it’s become a very personal issue since she watched a family member die of metastasis cancer. And she has also talked to several people who’ve been impacted by the issue.

“I have spoken with an advocate whose father was diagnosed with [a] terminal illness after surviving cancer, at least once, maybe twice, and this time [they] knew that it was the end,” she said. “And [he] died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. People shouldn't feel like that's their only option to avoid the pain.”

The legislation has a set of strict guidelines for physicians to prescribe the medication. Under the bill, a patient must be an adult, mentally capable and suffer from an incurable or irreversible disease that would result in death within six months.

A series of oral and written requests must also be made by the patient.

Dailey-Provost said she understands it’s a difficult policy for many people to consider, but she sees it as another option for those who don’t have any left.

It has faced strong opposition from Republicans lawmakers and politically conservative groups like the Utah Eagle Forum.

“I do believe that this will eventually become policy in the state of Utah,” she said. “But if we don't continue to run it and ask people to have the conversation, then it takes longer than it otherwise would. It's already taking longer than it should have, but we have to keep persevering.”

Margaret Battin, a philosophy and internal medicine professor at the University of Utah, has advocated for physician aid-in-dying for years.

Battin said with this type of legislation there are several safeguards in place so it doesn’t become misused or abused.

“I think you'd want to know about how central it is that it be voluntary on the part of the patient,” she said. “There is no room here for a family member to say ‘This patient wants that’ or a doctor to say, ‘Well, we need to do this.’ There's no room for that…any violation of that is a felony.”

Dailey-Provost is expecting opposition, but she’s also ready to have those discussions with lawmakers.

She said she’s focused on giving other legislators the opportunity to hear from constituents on the matter and getting a chance to vote on it.

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