Dignity in Dying: Guernsey assisted dying proposals fall at final hurdle

Posted On: 
18th May 2018

An assisted dying proposal in the States of Guernsey has today (Friday 18th May) been voted down by Deputies on the island. Deputies had earlier in the week defeated a wrecking amendment that would have denied the people of Guernsey a full debate on the subject.

The requête, led by Chief Minister Gavin St Pier, proposed that a working group would develop recommendations for assisted dying legislation on Guernsey. The proposal was defeated by 24 votes to 14 after 3 days of debate.

Today’s vote follows a victory for campaigners on Wednesday when they avoided an attempt to dispose with the debate on assisted dying. Deputies voted on Wednesday morning by 21 votes to 17 to debate a revised motion that included both assisted dying and palliative care, thereby rejecting a wrecking amendment.

The States of Guernsey have also today agreed that the Committee for Health and Social Care should ‘consider the measures necessary to improve quality of life and health outcomes for all islanders towards the end of their lives’.

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, which campaigns for a change in the law on assisted dying in the UK, said:

“Many in Guernsey and beyond will be disappointed with today’s result, particularly those who have seen the suffering caused by the current law. However, this debate has proved beyond doubt that there is immense public support for change and that more politicians are beginning to listen to the views of their constituents.

“The debate in Guernsey has also demonstrated, through the positive engagement of the Royal College of Physicians, the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council, that the medical community can and will provide guidance for health care professionals in the event of law change, paving the way for future progress.

“In recent years, politicians in the US, Canada and Australia have listened to the views of dying people, examined the limits of palliative care and concluded that it is perfectly possible, and necessary, to craft compassionate, evidence-based assisted dying legislation that provides choice to terminally ill people while protecting the rest of society. Today, many Deputies voted against the prospect of even beginning a consultation on this issue, despite claiming that they were not in principle opposed to assisted dying. Meanwhile, many dying people throughout the UK and Channel Islands are enduring unbearable suffering in their final months or are being forced to take matters into their own hands at home or in Switzerland.

“By agreeing to consider improvements in quality of life and health outcomes for dying people, we also hope that the Health and Social Care committee will examine the strong evidence over twenty years in Oregon that assisted dying is complementary to, and in fact has been shown to improve, the quality of palliative and end-of-life care.

“We commend the Deputies and campaigners who sought to make Guernsey a more compassionate, sensible and progressive place for its dying citizens. The supporters of assisted dying put the issue of end-of-life care on the agenda and the tone of the debate has been remarkably civil on the whole, with notable exceptions from several opponents of assisted dying. Guernsey has taken the lead on debating assisted dying and we anticipate that their excellent example will have far-reaching consequences far from its shores.

“Regardless of today’s result, it is clear that change must and will come to the British Isles - the only question is ‘when’.”