Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Utah Lawmakers Hear Testimony On Right-To-Die Bill

Andrea Smardon
Terminally ill Utah resident Carrie Snyder testifies with her family before the Health and Human Services Interim Committee at the Utah Capitol. (July 13, 2016)

A committee of Utah lawmakers considered end of life options on Wednesday. Democratic Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck submitted draft legislation that would allow terminally ill Utahns to end their lives with medical assistance.

Several terminally ill patients testified before the committee, like Janet Lamere who has stage 4 colon cancer. She assured the committee that she wants to live.

“But my death is inevitable no matter how hard I fight and how willing I am to try almost anything to extend my life,” Lamere says. “The aid in dying bill would give me some control in how I would die. Please help pass this bill so I won’t suffer at the end.”

The proposal under consideration would allow a patient to request a prescription from a physician for medication that would end her life. The patient must be a mentally competent adult who is diagnosed with an irreversible and incurable illness that will result in death in six months or less.

Medical experts and advocacy groups testified on both sides of the issue. There were not many questions from the committee of lawmakers, but Republican Representative Norm Thurston did challenge Dr. Margaret Battin, a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Adjunct Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Utah.

“We’re talking about a circumstance… that is terminal illness in which, remember this, there is no way out. Death is coming,” Battin said.

“For all of us,” Thurston interjected.

“Well, but we’re not terminally ill. You don’t appear to be terminally ill,” Battin responded.

“Well, we are all terminally ill. We will all die,” Thurston said.

“No, we’re not in the legal sense,” Battin said.

But debate was cut off as the committee chairs reminded the lawmakers that there was limited time for discussion. The bill’s sponsor Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck says she’ll be working behind the scenes to build support and is open to changing the legislation. This is the third year in a row she is attempting to pass a right-to-die bill.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.