Ministers have agreed to research the implications of legalising assisted dying, following the efforts of a local campaigner, who started a petition in favour of giving the terminally ill a say over when they die after her mother was diagnosed with cancer.
The Council of Ministers yesterday pledged to undertake "detailed" research into whether islanders should be able to take control over their end of life choices before bringing it to public consultation.
The 1,800 signature-strong petition that inspired the move was originally brought by assisted dying campaigner Tanya Tupper. The issue is particularly close to her heart due to the fact her mother, Roberta, is terminally ill with stage-four lung cancer.
In his official reply to Tanya’s petition, Deputy Renouf said that “due to the complexity, sensitivity and gravity of the issue”, he would consult his fellow Ministers on it – a response which Tanya’s campaign group ‘End of Life Choices Jersey’ dubbed “not so encouraging."
Pictured: The Health Minister said that he would consult with his fellow Ministers on the issue of assisted dying.
However, as a result of these discussions, the Council of Ministers have announced their intention to undertake further research into end of life choices in the island to get to grips with “the legal, ethical and practical” implications of legalising assisted dying.
This research will be carried out before the States take the issue out for public consultation to gauge islanders’ views on the matter.
On the end of life research, a government spokesperson said: “When discussing the matter, Ministers agreed they wanted to understand the legal and practical implications of extended end-of-life choices.
“They have therefore agreed to an investigation that would bring together the work already done by other British and wider international jurisdictions on issues such as eligibility criteria, protection for patients, registration of medical practitioners and ethical codes of conduct,” the spokesperson continued.
Pictured: Out of over 1,000 respondents to the Express poll, 954 (90.6%) said they would support assisted dying in Jersey, with just 99 respondents indicating they were against the idea.
“Ministers understand that there are significant, challenging ethical discussions associated with end-of-life choices and, once the legal, ethical and practical issues have been considered in a local context, they intend to extend the work to include public consultation.”
Commenting on the rationale behind undertaking this research, the Chief Minister John Le Fondré said: “This is a sensitive and challenging subject, and we need to understand not only the ethical, legal and social consequences, but also any potential ramifications on our relationship with the UK.”
This move has been welcomed by UK campaign group Dignity in Dying as "great news".
Tom Davies, Director of Campaigns and Communications at the organisation said: "It's great news that the Government of Jersey will be conducting research into this most vital of policy areas... For too long, lawmakers in Britain have shied away from giving their dying citizens this choice. I hope this research will look beyond the British Isles to those countries that have passed safeguarded laws and see that safe, legal assisted dying is not only a possibility, but a moral imperative."
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