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Historic vote sees assisted dying approved in principle

Historic vote sees assisted dying approved in principle

Thursday 25 November 2021

Historic vote sees assisted dying approved in principle


States Members have voted in favour of the principle of introducing assisted dying for over-18s in Jersey in an historic decision for the island.

Following a debate through yesterday and this morning, 36 members of the Assembly voted for the proposal to go through, with 10 members voting against it.

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 yesterday 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 yesterday, decided to vote in favour of the proposition.

In his closing remarks before the final vote this morning, Home Affairs Minister Deputy Gregory Guida, who put forward the proposal on the behalf of the Council of Ministers, highlighted one particular islander's plight.

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Pictured: Home Affairs Minister Deputy Gregory Guida said he was voting in favour of the decision on behalf of a phase 4 cancer sufferer.

"I would like to finish by presenting my personal views on assisted dying. Like all in this Chamber, I have received many personal representations on the subject, but I have been unable to answer to them so close to the date," he said.

"I would like to apologise to those people for that, and I will now explain my own position.

"I will be voting for assisted dying, and I will do it in the knowledge that I will disappoint the people who have written to me to advocate against it - but this vote is not for them.

"My vote is not for the pressure groups, the lobbyists or the advocates of assisted dying. I am voting on behalf of a single person: she is a Phase 4 cancer sufferer.

"I am voting for that one person, who was in such pain that the only way to alleviate it was to make her unconscious for a week.

"A person whose very short future is overwhelmed by the fear of this pain returning, overwhelmed by the fear that her last contact with their family will be through screams of agony until she is rendered unconscious again.

"Her relatives will sit by her inert body for days or weeks, until her heart mercifully stops beating based on its own unfeeling biological process - at this point, she will probably be alone.

"I am voting to give that one person one merciful decent dignified option, if she chooses to use it."

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.

Before Members voted, the Bailiff also made a comment saying that it "is always a privilege to preside over this Assembly, but it has been a particular privilege to preside over this debate.

"Members have brought their best reflective selves to the debate, and it has been of absolutely the highest quality, so as I say, it has been a particular privilege."

The eligibility criteria in the proposition says that a person should have 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 "an incurable physical condition, resulting in unbearable suffering that cannot be alleviated."

As per the amended proposition, a follow-up debate will be brought to the Assembly, finalising safeguards and processes on assisted dying.

Paul Gazzard, whose husband Alain du Chemin died of glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer in May, and campaigned for legalised assisted dying on the islandwelcomed today's result.

"I am delighted that States Members have chosen today to stand with terminally ill people and their loved ones and reject the ban on assisted dying. I was touched that several speeches referred to Alain; he would have been honoured to have played a part in this historic moment," he said.

"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, which campaigns across the British Isles for a change in the law to allow assisted dying as a choice for terminally ill, mentally competent adults, said: "Today is a victory for common-sense and compassion.

"The States Assembly has listened to the public and the clear mandate given to them by the citizens' jury to fix this broken law. This historic vote paves the way for the first assisted dying legislation for British citizens, moving at long last away from a cruel and outdated status quo that denies dying people choice and forces them to suffer against their wishes.

"Momentum for change is building right across UK and Ireland, and Jersey is now leading the charge. An Assisted Dying Bill is also progressing through the House of Lords, a public consultation is underway in Scotland, and a Special Committee on this issue will launch in Ireland in the New Year.

"Meanwhile more than 200 million people around the world have access to assisted dying laws.

"We commend Jersey's States Assembly for their open-mindedness. History will remember those who did the right thing and stood up for dying citizens, as well as those who did not."

However, others did not approve of the decision. The coordinators of Care for Life Jersey, said: "We are very disappointed that the States Assembly has approved in principle to enable an entitlement to a doctor killing their patient on their behalf, or assisting a patient's suicide.

"These are flawed and dangerous proposals, generated by a Citizens' Jury which failed to talk to a single psychiatrist, giving notional safeguards that are weak and unclear, and which would introduce a system most closely similar to Belgium and the Netherlands, which has seen the untimely death of many vulnerable persons.

"We are also thankful, however, for the wise amendment by Deputy Morel, which we hope will enable further consideration that will expose the simplistic shallowness of 'choice' rhetoric in showing how safeguards have never been able to properly protect those whose personal autonomy is most weakened by their physical condition.

"Especially ahead of the Election, such further thought should lead to the rejection of the false compassion of EAS in favour of genuine reforms to laws relating to suicide and end-of-life care".

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

"If introduced into Jersey law, euthanasia and assisted suicide would enable the abuse of the most vulnerable people, who most deserve the protection of our legislators, and who have been failed by them today.

"I am hopeful that the space afforded by the Morel amendment will allow for a much more responsible reconsideration of this issue, which will result in the rejection introducing killing into medical practice, with all the dark and inhumane consequences this involves that overseas experiences tragically demonstrate."

READ MORE...

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

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Comments

Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.

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Posted by IanSmith97 on
I would take my own life if in terrible pain. However, the much vaunted ‘safeguards’ will be relaxed in time and the qualifying illnesses extended and time scales expanded. It’s called legislation creep. Get a controversial proposition in by promising strict controls and then the pressure groups get to work advocating for relaxation of said controls. It always happens and it will happen with this. “Just sign here mum”, don’t laugh, that will happen too.
Posted by Robert Gabriel on
This vote is welcome news for anyone hoping to see a change in the law on assisted suicide in Jersey.
Posted by Robert Gabriel on
This was the right decision. However, agreeing to change the law in principle is a very long way from actually achieving it. Unfortunately, with an election looming this vote may still turn out to be pointless.
Posted by Private Individual on
This is the correct decision for once.
Posted by Keith Marsh on
The States decide on a "jury" vote of 18.63 people out of 23. to discus this emotive subject.
That jury were not allowed sufficient non biased information ~ surely something as important should receive the backing of the whole population in a referendum and for once the Government should abide by such result.
I am not against assisted murder or against helping someone take their own life, I just feel that as often is the case on Jersey, Politicians have only done what a small non representative group have said.
Posted by Ann Robbie on
I am a supporter of this initiative BUT presumably assisted suicide would invalidate your life insurance policy. I wonder if any thought has been given to this aspect of the very complex subject.
Posted by Private Individual on
Kieth, with all due respect, that is not your decision to make if someone other than yourself is dying from cancer. No one will be forcing anyone to sign a bit of paper to say "kill me now". It should be each individual's personal choice, not the government and certainly not the "community".

It is an individual's right to choose how to die in a dignified respectable way, it is not down to the community to keep them alive so they continue to suffer in excruciating pain, just because of someone else's beliefs.

I am glad this has been passed, as I will not have to travel to Dignitas to die when my time comes.
Posted by Paul Troalic on
Very sad day for Jersey. First a World Class Hospital pipe dream now an Assisted Dying Scheme gets the first approval.
Just awful in my view.
Try explaining this to the soldiers that were tortured by their captors or those that fought at every stage of this lives to live. Or those that have to live without limbs through no fault of their own.
Posted by Robert Gabriel on
This was the right decision. However, agreeing to change the law in principle is a very long way from actually achieving it. Unfortunately, with an election looming this vote may still turn out to be pointless.
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