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Jersey woman mounts ‘dignity in dying’ campaign after mum’s terminal diagnosis

Jersey woman mounts ‘dignity in dying’ campaign after mum’s terminal diagnosis

Thursday 31 May 2018

Jersey woman mounts ‘dignity in dying’ campaign after mum’s terminal diagnosis


A woman whose mother is planning to end her life at Dignitas in Switzerland after being diagnosed with terminal cancer will this weekend bring together doctors, politicians, lawyers and charities to discuss the possibility of assisted dying in Jersey.

Tanya Tupper says she organised the meeting, which will take place at 13:00 in the States Members room on Sunday, in order to start a “respectful” conversation on how helping islanders end their lives could be legalised in Jersey.

Despite having no prior campaign experience, Tanya says she was inspired to act due to the plight of her terminally ill mother, Roberta, who she spends her days looking after, “driving around and taking out to give her quality of life.” 

Around three years ago, Roberta was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, which later spread to her bones and brain. Since then, the mother and grandmother became determined to end her life at Dignitas in Switzerland, opting to pay for an annual membership.

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Pictured: Tanya's mother, Roberta, who was the inspiration behind the Jersey campaign.

But until Guernsey began its assisted dying campaign, both Roberta and her daughter were unaware that the procedure could be legalised in Jersey if States Members agree. “We thought that when the decision was made in 2015 in the UK that we were included in that.”

While Roberta is willing to travel for the procedure, the pair feel that all islanders with life-limiting conditions should have the opportunity to end their lives at home.

“I’ve got cancer in my family – am I just going to be dreading that time where I’m starving to death and dehydrated? Or is there another option for me when it gets too much? If I could take a pill, it would give a lot of reassurance to me living my life,” Tanya told Express.

“My grandfather had cancer before I was born and he died terribly from lung cancer. I was aware of that, my mum had told me, and she had nursed him. It just seems wrong to me to let someone get that ill.”

She therefore kept a close eye on the Guernsey debate, which saw the proposals eventually defeated. But this hasn’t disheartened her – instead she sees it as a “learning opportunity” on how the model could work in Jersey.

Tanya suggests that Jersey's approach could be based around the 'Oregon model', which focuses on those with just six months left to live, but maintained: "I don’t want to say this is my view, I want people to tell me what they think is best and we’ll all work it out together. Maybe there’ll then be a proposal of a few different options for Jersey for us to decide on."

She added: “In different countries they’ve taken different routes. I think assisted dying over euthanasia is important because it’s the person administering it to themselves, rather than having a doctor responsible for ending someone’s life, which they may not feel comfortable with. It’s the person taking the pills themselves, which is an important distinction. In Holland, people with dementia are eligible and in Dignitas you can be in unbearable pain, you don’t have to have a terminal illness diagnosis. We need to really decide what’s best for Jersey.” 

But the most important part, she says, is that the final proposal put to the States is one developed by the community as a whole. She’s therefore looking to hear from as many stakeholders as possible and would even support a referendum on the issue.  

Jersey Hospice and legal professionals will be in attendance at Sunday’s meeting, while States Members old and new have also been invited to put forward their views, including outgoing Health Minister Senator Andrew Green. Once enough people have signed, she'll also be circulating her petition in favour of assisted dying to parish deputies.

She says the meeting will provide a “respectful” forum to discuss how the proposal could work. In tandem with her social media campaign, she also hopes it will help educate islanders on the issue and help avoid some of the “scaremongering” and misinformation witnessed during the Guernsey campaign, which saw some warn of ‘suicide tourism’ and the potential for disability discrimination – despite provisions in the proposed law to protect against this. 

So far, Tanya says she's received good support from islanders - over 200 have 'liked' the Facebook page, and several people have reached out with their own personal stories. But she still wants that number to keep growing. "It affects everyone really - if it's not your family, it's someone you care about. I think everyone should be involved, I really do."

An Express poll this month signalled very strong support for allowing doctors to help patients 'die with dignity'.

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Pictured: Results from Express's assisted dying poll.

More than 1,000 islanders chose to take part in the poll, with 90.6% (954 islanders) stating that they would support assisted dying in Jersey. Just 9.4% - 99 respondents - said that they were against the idea.

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Posted by sara starkey on
Good luck to Tanya and Roberta. May Jersey be the first place in the British Isles to be so civilised.

Here’s a novel idea…..How about the individual deciding for themselves? Rather than some deemed 'higher' authority.

The medical establishment must STOP seeing death as a FAILURE. Mend those they can and leave those of us dying to choose NOT to die horribly slowly with our families and friends haunted by our long drawn out deaths.

There seems to be a collective madness within the unelected medical establishment, the MPs and the religious fundamentalists. STOP the paternalism, the arrogance that oozes out of these self important people. Give power and rights to the individual who has made a sane and logical decision that their life has come to an end. Death is NOT A FAILURE ...it can be a wonderful release from suffering. What's not to like?‬

My husband died at Dignitas last year on the 28th of April with me holding his hand. It was a 'good' death....but he should have been allowed to do it here in the UK in his own home with all who love him there, now that would have been a 'great' death. Rather than sneak off to Switzerland.
Posted by Elizabeth Johnson on
This is such a personal decision. However, as long as checks and balances are in place to enable people to be safe ie not being coerced into an assisted death, then surely, as adults with capacity, it is ones own choice. No one is going to take such a decision lightly and allshoukd be supported through any decision making process to ensure they have reflected on all aspects of the decision and how that impacts not only them but also the people in their life who matter to them. However I do not believe this is something that politicians can dictate, people should be allowed if they wish to end their life with dignity, without pain and at Home not having to go abroad.
Posted by M J on
Let people choose. It is not right that healthy people should get to choose for people chronically terminally ill and in pain.
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