Assisted dying could be legalised in Jersey

Politicians in Jersey have voted to approve the principle of legalising assisted dying.

A debate on the subject of assisted dying was initiated after 78% of the citizens’ jury, made up of Jersey islanders, ruled it was in favour of changing the law.

The overall vote which was 36 in favour, 10 against and three absent, will be followed by a further debate next year once details of the processes and safeguards have been considered. If those proposals are backed then a draft law could be discussed and voted on in 2023.

The Jersey assisted dying principles, as they currently stand, would only be applicable to those who are an adult resident of Jersey, have a voluntary and informed wish to end their own life, and have the capacity to make the decision to end their own life. They must also 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“.

A set of agreed safeguards have been drawn up and include a pre-approval process, a mandatory period of reflection, and pre-approved locations. Additionally, registered medical professionals should be able to assist, but they are not under a legal duty to do so.

Both physician-assisted suicide, where the prescription of lethal drugs is used to end life, and voluntary euthanasia by a registered medical practitioner, would become legal under the agreed proposals.

Disagreeing with the proposals, Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf, commented:

Safeguards can be built up and to the best of our ability, but none of them can be truly effective. None of them would truly protect patients who are going to become vulnerable if assisted dying were to be introduced.

Whereas Deputy Carina Alves acknowledged that beliefs should not restrict freedom of choice in the matter:

This proposition is about choice and I would never want anyone to restrict my choices on something that impacts me and my body … regardless of my faith I have no right to do that.

During the debate Deputy Louise Doublet said:

We must recognise the elderly and vulnerable have an inherent value as human beings and ensure they have a place in our society. We can do that and look after the rights of those who are suffering unbearably. We can do both.

Deputy David Johnson said:

I think it’s important we proceed to the next step where all the various arguments, the processes and safeguards can be fleshed out in greater detail.

The news comes as the private members Assisted Dying Bill cleared its second reading in the House of Lords in October.

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