Assisted dying campaigners have said they're not feeling optimistic the Health Minister will act on their calls, despite more than 1,300 people backing proposals to give islanders a say in how and when they die.
Yesterday, the Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf, said that he would be bringing the topic of assisted dying to the Council of Ministers for discussion with a view to deciding whether to take the idea further by January next year.
His comments came in response to campaigner Tanya Tupper, who launched the petition last month. She was inspired by her mother, Roberta, who became determined to end her life at Dignitas in Switzerland after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.
While Roberta is willing to travel for the procedure, the mother-daughter pair feels that all islanders with life-limiting conditions should have the option to spend their last days at home.
Tanya's petition racked up over 1,000 signatures – enough to secure a response from the Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf - in just two weeks.
Pictured: Tanya Tupper and her mum, Roberta.
The Health Minister replied yesterday, saying that, as a "complex and sensitive issue", assisted dying requires further in-depth consideration by the entire Council of Ministers.
"Ministers acknowledge the importance and significance of ensuring that people are able to end their lives with dignity and that services must be available to support this," he wrote.
"The nature of end of life care and its relationship to what the petition calls 'assisted dying' is complex and one that is ethically and morally sensitive and therefore is guided by our personal values and beliefs. As a community, we place a high value on health and quality of life; this is no less so as our lives come to an end."
He added that on 1 October, laws to support advance decision-making around care came in force to make sure islanders' wishes regarding future potential treatments can be fulfilled. In addition, Deputy Renouf says that Jersey has adopted a multi-agency, cross-service ‘Gold Standard Framework’ to "deliver consistently high quality care for people nearing the end of life."
Pictured: Deputy Richard Renouf, the Health Minister.
"However, people suffering a terminal illness have the right to refuse treatment," he added. "And, if they do so, their doctors have a duty to provide care with the aim of relieving the symptoms of their illness and to do their utmost to control any distress and pain."
Deputy Renouf said the wider international debate raises "many important and fundamental issues," including clear eligibility criteria; a framework to protect the vulnerable; assessment of free will and the absence of coercion; continuity of care; and where decision making responsibility should lie.
While he said that the debate in other countries has seen polarised opinions, it also showed "shared values of care, choice and compassion." He said the Council of Ministers should have those in mind when reviewing "our own current laws around end of life to understand if a change is needed and if so what options exist to bring about change."
But that change must first be considered in more depth by the Council of Ministers, he said, adding that time will be needed for "informed discussion" drawing on research undertaken in other parts of the British Isles. He said he intends to bring this before the Council for initial consideration before the end of January 2019.
'End of Life Choices', the campaign group leading local efforts to bring about assisted dying, posted on Facebook that it was "great that it [assisted dying] will be reviewed", but added that the Minister's comments were "not so encouraging."
"...We hope he will look beyond the British Isles where all but the Faulklands have rejected Assisted Dying," they said.
A survey run by Express earlier this year suggested that islanders supported assisted dying. More than 1,000 islanders chose to take part in the poll, with 90.6% (954 islanders) stating that they would support assisted dying proposals in Jersey. Just 9.4% - 99 respondents – said that they were against the idea.
A ground-breaking proposal to legally allow doctors to help terminally ill islanders to ‘die with dignity’ was rejected by the States of Guernsey in May. The proposals had stirred up strong feelings from both sides in Guernsey, with religious leaders, campaigners, academics and even a member of the Falklands parliament weighing in on the debate.
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