SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House voted in favor of a bill Tuesday that would add assisted suicide to the state's manslaughter statute.
Under HB86, sponsored by Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, it would become a second-degree felony in Utah to knowingly provide the means for someone to take their own life or to aid in a suicide attempt.
The bill comes in the wake of the suicide of a 16-year-old girl in Utah County that prosecutors say was only possible through the help and encouragement of her older friend, 18-year-old Tyerell Przybycien, who is now standing trial for murder.
McKell amended the bill to address some controversy about what it would mean for hospice care providers and other circumstances where practitioners give medication to a terminally ill patient.
The amended bill, which passed the House with a 51-18 vote, says a practitioner may treat a patient's illness and pain or discomfort with medication that may end up shortening the patient's life. But the practitioner may not "knowingly and intentionally" provide medication or procedure to commit suicide.
Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, tried to add a stronger amendment to protect practitioners, but it was blocked on grounds that it could lead to legal assisted suicide.1 comment on this story
"The language of this bill interferes with the relationship between health care providers and patients," said Chavez-Houck, who voted against the measure.
"We need to make sure that we draw clear lines between suicide and allowing suffering patients to peacefully end their life," she said.
Chavez-Houck is sponsoring a so-called "death with dignity" bill, which would establish procedures for an individual with a terminal disease to obtain a prescription to end their life.
A spokesman for House Democrats issued a statement to oppose making the assisted suicide of terminally ill patients an act of murder.