Jersey paves way to legalise assisted dying 

Jersey paves way to legalise assisted dying 
Jersey paves way to legalise assisted dying 

Jersey today became the first place in the British Isles to approve assisted dying following a vote in the Channel Island's parliament.

Following a two-day debate, members of the States Assembly voted by 36 to 10 in favour of the move, paving the way for the policy's future legalisation.

The Council of Ministers will now be tasked with drafting an assisted dying laws to be debated by the end of next year. If those proposals are backed then assisted dying could be allowed by 2023. 

It is expected that the law in Jersey will only allow local residents aged 18 or over to opt for assisted dying if they are diagnosed with a terminal illness that will result in unbearable suffering that cannot be alleviated and is reasonably expected to die within six months. 

Draft legislation is also likely to state that people wishing to end their life must have a 'clear, settled and informed wish to end their own life' and have the 'capacity to make the decision'.

Introducing the proposal on behalf of fellow ministers yesterday, Home Affairs Minister Gregory Guida called it a 'societal issue being discussed and debated worldwide and Jersey should not ignore it'. 

The proposition followed a citizens' jury report, which showed that 78 per cent of jury members supported assisted dying for adults living with a terminal illness or unbearable suffering, subject to safeguards.  

Following a two-day debate on the issue, members of Jersey's parliament, the States Assembly, voted by 36 to 10 in favour of the move

Following a two-day debate on the issue, members of Jersey's parliament, the States Assembly, voted by 36 to 10 in favour of the move

Jersey today became the first place in the British Isles to approve assisted dying in principle - meaning it could soon be legal (stock image)

Jersey today became the first place in the British Isles to approve assisted dying in principle - meaning it could soon be legal (stock image)

Jersey assisted dying principles 

The principles agreed by Jersey's parliament are: 

Must be an island resident; Aged 18 or above; Individual has a voluntary, clear, settled and informed wish to end their own life; They have capacity to make the decision to end their own life; They have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, which is expected to result in unbearable suffering that cannot be alleviated and is reasonably expected to die within six months; or, has an incurable physical condition, resulting in unbearable suffering that cannot be alleviated.

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Jersey, 14 miles off the north-west coast of France, is a Crown Dependency, but is not part of the UK. It has its own self-governing parliamentary democracy.

During the debate, Deputy Guida accepted an amendment by Deputy Kirsten Morel, which added an extra stage to the process, with Deputy Morel saying he wanted further detail on the process and safeguards to be considered in a follow-up debate.

States Members debating the matter spoke of their concerns yesterday, both at having and not having the right to choose to die.

Several Members gave emotionally charged speeches and offered quotes from prominent campaigners and testimony about the impact of end-of-life suffering.

Some, such as Health Minister Richard Renouf, argued it was a 'fundamental change' for the worse, while others, such as Senator Steve Pallett, said that it was a 'common-sense way forward' and that Islanders should not be denied the choice.

Senator Sam Mézec called it 'literally a life-and-death matter'. 

Public figures who spoke out ahead of the vote included former Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur, who was against the move due to safeguarding concerns, and Paul Gazzard, the widower of Alain du Chemin, who died of an aggressive form of brain cancer. 

Addressing States Members yesterday, Deputy Guida described the topic as a 'very controversial issue', with many parishioners contacting their elected representatives 'agitating for one side or the other'. 

The minister encouraged the politicians present to 'act according to their own conviction'.

Deputy Renouf said there was 'a great sadness to me', arguing that the proposal 'accepts that vulnerable people will be put at risk by its introduction and accepts that safeguards have limitations and will not always work'. 

He added that it meant 'accepting bringing about early death of some people who need our protection. At present those people have our protection'.

The laws around assisted dying in the UK

What's the law around assisted dying in England, Wales and Northern Ireland? 

Currently, those judged to have assisted the suicide or attempted suicide of another person in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can be jailed for up to 14 years.

What's the law in Scotland? 

In Scots law, assisted dying might constitute murder, culpable homicide or no offence depending on the nature of the assistance. 

Why is assisted dying controversial? 

Last month, medical professionals wrote to Health Secretary Sajid Javid saying will not cooperate with any new law on assisted dying.

They spelt out their opposition in an open letter signed by 1,689 doctors, nurses, pharmacists and medical students, in which they insisted that 'the shift from preserving life to taking life was enormous and should not be minimised'. 

Campaigners say it will give people with terminal illnesses greater choice and control over how and when they die, with safeguards to protect them and their loved ones. But opponents say it will put pressure on people to end their lives. 

The medics' letter reads: 'The prohibition of killing is the safeguard. The current law is the protection for the vulnerable. 

'Any change would threaten society's ability to safeguard vulnerable patients from abuse.

'It would undermine the trust the public places in physicians, and it would send a clear message to our frail, elderly and disabled patients about the value that society places on them.'

Faith leaders have also expressed 'profound disquiet'. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Roman Catholic Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis have written to Mr Javid warning him the safeguards are inadequate.

Is assisted dying being legalised in the UK?

A backbench Bill to allow assisted dying has passed its first stage in the Lords.

The crossbencher Baroness Meacher, chairman of campaign group Dignity in Dying, who tabled the Bill, proposed that only terminally ill patients with full mental capacity and who were not expected to live more than six months, would be eligible to apply for an assisted death.

Downing Street has hinted that Tory MPs will be given a free vote when it comes to the Commons.

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The minister raised concerns that individuals could consider themselves a 'burden to their families', and questioned whether the safeguards were sufficient enough. 

'The prohibition of killing is the safeguard,' he said.

Deputy Renouf also said that assisted dying 'starts calculating and determining a value to human life which leads to an inevitable change to attitude', adding that society risked becoming 'desensitised to the value of life'.

His view was echoed by the Dean of Jersey, the Very Rev Mike Keirle, who said the States was 'in danger of writing a blank ethical cheque'.

Mr Keirle, who is allowed to speak in the

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