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Polling Shows Utah Voters Want Medical Aid in Dying

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Thursday, March 17, 2022   

Despite polls showing most voters support the right to a peaceful death, a bill to legalize medical aid in dying has once again failed to advance in the Utah General Assembly.

House Bill 74 would have enacted the End of Life Options Act to allow mentally sound, terminally ill patients with less than six months to live to obtain a prescription to gently end their suffering if they decide they want to use it.

Medical aid in dying is legal in 10 states and Washington D.C., but opponents argued it could be abused and people could be coerced into it.

Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, who sponsored the bill, said numerous safeguards would be in place to ensure it does not happen.

"The resistance stems almost entirely from misconceptions, misunderstandings, inaccurate worst-case scenarios that people will imagine will happen that have never borne out in the data in the states where this is legal," Dailey-Provost argued.

In a new national poll, voters are eight times more likely than less likely to vote for a candidate who backs such a bill. And when broken down by region, nearly 62% of respondents in Utah and other western states said they would want the option if they ended up in the situation.

Rebecca Chavez-Houck, former state representative and member of the Latino Leadership Council at Compassion & Choices, introduced the first medical aid in dying bill in Utah in 2015, which failed to advance along with the six others introduced since. She contended support among lawmakers appeared to dwindle after 2016, when leaders of the Latter-day Saints church urged members to oppose the practice.

"Nine out of 10 legislators in the Utah state Legislature are Latter-day Saints," Chavez-Houck pointed out. "When you have that high of a percentage who are serving in office, that will definitely color the way they vote on public policy. "

Meanwhile, the poll found medical aid in dying gets 66% support among Catholic and Protestant voters, and 83% support from Jewish voters. Chavez-Houck believes more Utahns need to speak out.

"A critical mass of voters, of constituents who support medical aid in dying need to press upon the state legislature this is something that they would like to see pass," Chavez-Houck urged. "But an overlay to that is maybe pursuing a ballot initiative."

Disclosure: Compassion & Choices contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Health Issues, Senior Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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