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Bishop makes pre-election push against assisted dying

Bishop makes pre-election push against assisted dying

Tuesday 24 May 2022

Bishop makes pre-election push against assisted dying

Tuesday 24 May 2022

The Bishop of Portsmouth is calling on islanders to "mobilise" against legalising assisted dying and not let "Jersey become a destination for death and suicide tourism".

In an open letter to "Canon Dominic Golding, and to the Clergy, Religious and Faithful of the Parish of Jersey", Bishop Philip Egan said he wished to bring the issue of assisted dying back onto the agenda "because elections are underway in Jersey".

States Members voted in favour of the principle of introducing assisted dying for over-18s in Jersey last year, but how this would work in practice is yet to be worked out or voted on. 

Evoking the commandments he said "form the bedrock" of Jewish and Christian morality, "Thou shalt not kill" and "Love thy neighbour as thyself", Bishop Egan described legalising assisted dying as "fundamentally subversive and dangerous, however well-intentioned."

He went on to explain that, while "pain and infirmity are a difficult trial for anyone", "modern drugs and modern methods mean that in today’s world, palliative care doctors and nurses can use their skills and knowledge to ensure that pain is properly managed at the end of life."

Turning to the elections, the Bishop Egan called on islanders to attempt to overturn what he dubbed "grim proposals", and "at the same time to redouble the compassionate care of those who are frail and terminally ill."

"Let there be no death-clinics in Jersey. Don’t let Jersey become a destination for death and suicide tourism," he said.

In an appeal to Catholics to "speak out against this proposal", he urged them to ask election candidates three questions:

  • "How will you vote on the question of assisted dying?
  • "...Could we credibly ensure that vulnerable people, including those who are depressed or disabled, would not be pressurised into taking this decision?"; and
  • "Trust is fundamental to the relationship between patients and medical professionals. How do you think such legislation would alter this relationship?"

In last November's 'in principle' vote, 36 members of the Assembly voted for the proposal to go through, with 10 members voting against.

The proposition was made in the name of  the Council of Ministers following a recommendation from a Citizen’s Jury of 23 islanders.

It was debated in November with an amendment from Deputy Kirsten Morel, which ensures processes and safeguards are considered in a follow-up debate if it is voted in, who, after voicing concerns, decided to vote in favour of the proposition. 

Pictured: A Tweet from Bishop Egan at the time of Jersey's assisted dying debate.

Prominent local campaigners in favour of assisted dying in Jersey included Alain du Chemin, who died of died of glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer in May. His story featured prominently among States Members' speeches during the debate.

His husband, Paul Gazzard, welcomed the result, adding: "The current law in Jersey meant that Alain was denied the right to die on his own terms at home, forcing us to try to arrange an assisted death abroad in the middle of a pandemic. This sapped time and energy when both were in short supply, taking a toll at an already difficult time. To have had the option of assisted dying in Jersey alongside end of life care would have saved us both so much stress and anxiety in his final months.

"It is heartening to know that other terminally ill people may be given this choice in future and won't have to suffer as Alain did, and that his tireless campaigning was not in vain."

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, also praised the result as a "victory for common-sense and compassion".

Alain Du Chemin marriage.jpeg

Pictured: Paul Gazzard, the husband of a campaigner for assisted dying who passed away in May, Alain du Chemin, said he was "delighted" with the decision.

However, others did not approve of the decision.

The coordinators of pressure group Care for Life Jersey, said the plan was "flawed and dangerous" and was critical of the fact that the Citizens' Jury "failed to talk to a single psychiatrist"

Dr Rachel Ruddy, a clinical psychiatrist, and a coordinator of Our Duty of Care Jersey, said the decision was "appalling" and "sends a terrible message to those suffering from suicidal ideation, especially due to depression brought upon by illness or impairment."

However, she said at the time that she was "hopeful that the space afforded by the Morel amendment will allow for a much more responsible reconsideration of this issue".

You can read Bishop Egan's letter in full HERE.


Historic vote sees assisted dying approved in principle

Politicians debate assisted dying in Jersey

Assisted dying campaigners argue against 'pre-approval' process

FOCUS: Assisted dying at Dignitas…how does it work?

Psychiatrist calls for better care before legalising assisted dying

Ministers make first major step towards assisted dying

FOCUS: Citizens' Jury supports assisted dying

Assisted dying campaigner passes away peacefully in Jersey

Jerseyman with place at Dignitas hopes island will allow assisted dying

‘Jury’ to receive £300 for considering assisted dying question

‘Jury’ to consider assisted dying in Jersey

Petition provokes assisted dying research

Pictured top - inset: Bishop Egan, who has written to Jersey parishioners. (Catholic Church of England and Wales)

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Posted by Jo Collins on
Externals should not be attempting to interfere with Jersey's election result. This man has no right to tell me how to live and end MY life.
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