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Utah Legislature Mulling End-Of-Life Options

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Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City.

State legislators on Wednesday heard testimony from Dan Diaz on proposed legislation that would add taking lethal doses of medication to the end-of-life options for terminally-ill patients. Diaz was the husband of the late Brittany Maynard, who gained national recognition for moving to Oregon in 2014 in order to end her life after suffering from cancer.

He said that while he understands the position of those who have objections, the legislation will not affect them.

“Death and dying; it’s a topic, as a culture, none of us like to think about. This medical option, it is an option,” Diaz said. “If there is an individual that is opposed, if they have religious reasons or their own moral convictions, that they say that they’re not in favor of it, my response to them is that this legislation does not affect them whatsoever. That person would simply never apply for it if they were in Brittany’s predicament.”

The proposed legislation would place a set of restrictions on eligibility for lethal medication. Diaz said that the limits in place are enough to protect individuals.

“Two physicians independent of one another have to agree this person is terminally ill and has six months or less to live. The individual has to be mentally competent, they have to make the request both verbally and in writing. There’s a 15-day waiting period, there’s witnesses. That request can only be made by that terminally-ill individual. It cannot be made by proxy, it cannot be made by power of attorney,” he said. “If there is an individual who says that there not supportive of this legislation, once this legislation becomes law, they simply would never apply for it.”

Even the language surrounding the issue is under debate. Diaz says that calling his wife’s path “suicide” is misleading and that “end-of-life options” gets more the heart of the matter.

“I think it is a misunderstanding, that they view it as if somebody has just given up. Brittany received this medication in May of 2014 and she died November 1. Throughout that entire time our focus was on fighting for Brittany, and having that medication changed nothing,” he said. “It just meant that she knew she had that option for her. She’s the one in control. Fully more than a third of the individuals in Oregon who have received the medication, they end up not taking it.”

Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, and California all have right-to-die legislation in place.