Jersey Citizen’s Jury calls for assisted dying law, as soaring public support for change revealed in Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man
- Recommendations come as assisted dying bill is introduced in Scotland yesterday, with second reading on House of Lords private members bill due in autumn, meaning three jurisdictions in British Isles are set to debate issue this year
- Citizen’s Jury in Jersey strongly recommends change in law on assisted dying following months of evidence-gathering and debate
- New polling across British Crown Dependencies finds overwhelming support for law change to enable true choice at end of life, with around half saying they would consider travelling overseas for assisted death if terminally ill
A citizen’s jury in Jersey has today (Tuesday 22 June 2021) announced its recommendation of a change in the law on assisted dying, which if approved could pave the way for the first legislation on true end-of-life choice in the British Isles. Also published today is new polling commissioned by Dignity in Dying, which reveals overwhelming public support for reform on assisted dying in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. This comes after assisted dying bills were introduced in Scotland yesterday (21 June 2021) and in the House of Lords last month (26 May 2021).
Since March 2021 a citizen’s jury in Jersey has met to hear expert and personal testimony on assisted dying and to consider a change in the law on the island. The jury has now published its initial recommendations, calling islanders who are terminally ill and unbearably suffering to be able to request medical assistance to end their own life. Over the coming months the Government of Jersey will develop policy proposals and the jury will publish a final report before a debate in the States Assembly by the end of this year. If legislation is approved, Jersey could become the first jurisdiction in the British Isles to allow assisted dying in limited circumstances.
The jury’s recommendations echo the strong support among Jersey’s public, as well as in Guernsey and the Isle of Man, polling reveals today. Public support for a change in the law on assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults was highest in Jersey at 90%, with Guernsey at 84% and the Isle of Man at 87%. As British Crown Dependencies, each jurisdiction is able to legislate on assisted dying independently from the rest of the British Isles. Guernsey last debated assisted dying legislation in 2018 and the Isle of Man discussed a motion on the topic in 2020.
Assisted dying as a choice for terminally ill, mentally competent adults is legal in 10 American states plus the District of Columbia, three Australian states and across New Zealand. Spain has also recently passed an assisted dying law, Germany and Austria are currently considering legislation and a bill is progressing through the Dáil in Ireland.
Paul Gazzard, 48, husband of Jerseyman Alain du Chemin, who died of brain cancer on 1st May 2021, supports a change in the law on assisted dying in Jersey and across the British Isles. Alain provided personal testimony to the citizen’s jury and wrote an open letter to the States Assembly before his death. Alain had planned an assisted death in Switzerland before his health deteriorated and he died in Jersey in a local hospice. Paul said:
“Alain’s message was simple: banning assisted dying does not work for terminally ill people or their loved ones. He would have lived better in his final months knowing that he had the choice he wanted here at home, without having to plan an assisted death overseas at huge expense and in the middle of a pandemic.
“Alain devoted his final months to fighting for change, knowing it would likely come too late for him. He would be delighted to learn that the citizen’s jury and the people of Jersey echo his calls for greater choice and control for terminally ill islanders. Before his death, Alain appealed to States Members to take up this opportunity to give the people of Jersey the right to die on their own terms. I sincerely hope they do.”
Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, which campaigns for a change in the law on assisted dying across the British Isles, added:
“The people of Jersey have declared loud and clear that they want choice and control over their deaths alongside high quality palliative care. Their Government now has a clear mandate: to listen to its citizens and grasp this opportunity to become a world-leader on end-of-life choice.
“Public support for change is also soaring in Guernsey and the Isle of Man, as it is in Scotland, where an assisted dying bill was introduced just yesterday. A House of Lords private members bill is also due to reach second reading in the autumn, meaning three jurisdictions in the British Isles are set to debate assisted dying this year. Furthermore, the Health Secretary has commissioned data on the impact of the blanket ban on England and Wales.
“Law-makers around the British Isles are concluding what the public has long known; that the current law cannot give our dying citizens the choice, control, compassion or protection they need. It is time we enacted our own safeguarded assisted dying laws, which are now the hallmark of liberal, progressive societies around the world.”