Campaign group welcomes jury report on assisted dying

Michael Talibard, Vice President of End of Life Choices Jersey. Photo: DAVID FERGUSON

End of Life Choices Jersey enthusiastically received the news that a jury of islanders had supported the principle of allowing people with terminal illnesses or in excruciating pain to end their own lives.

After a series of discussions, the jury delivered its first report on Tuesday and said 78% of its 23 members, selected to form a cross-section of society, were in favor of assisted dying.

Health Minister Richard Renouf has confirmed that he will now table a report and a proposal in September before a debate in the Assembly of States before the end of the year on the principle of introducing a law on assisted dying. He stressed that this did not necessarily mean his support for the decision but that the proposal would be tabled in accordance with the views of the jury.

End of Life Choices Jersey has urged the government to move forward on the issue in recent years, and Vice President Michael Talibard said the group felt “a real sense of accomplishment” after the initial outcome of the jury process.

Mr Talibard said: “I think the jury did a very good job and it is a great step in the right direction.

“We have urged the Minister of Health to take this matter to the States and now he will – we look forward to this debate.”

The convincing majority among the jury members was welcomed by Mr Talibard, who said it reflected islanders’ views and public opinion evidence in other jurisdictions.

He added: “Every time these numbers are measured they go up – it’s a constant trend, not just in Jersey but around the world.

“There is a lot of support for physician-assisted dying in the UK, but as a Jersey man I would be so proud if we lead the way when it comes to the British Isles – that would be to our credit.”

The citizens’ jury held a series of ten meetings earlier this year, with 81% of jurors supporting the idea that physician-assisted dying should only be allowed for residents of Jersey and there was a narrow preference for that eligibility be limited to those over 18, coupled with a recognition that more in-depth consultation was needed in this area.

UK-based lobby group Dignity in Dying also welcomed the developments, releasing the results of recent opinion polls that showed strong public support for assisted dying in all three Crown Addictions: Jersey recorded a 90% support figure, just ahead of the Isle of Man (87%) and Guernsey (84%).

Former Guernsey Chief Minister Gavin St Pier, who raised the issue through a private member’s bill, known as the petition, in 2018, has welcomed the move towards debate in Jersey, saying: ‘Politicians cannot continue to ignore the will of the public on this issue.’

If member states voted to support the principle of assisted dying legislation, an extensive process of consultation and drafting of the law would begin before a further debate in the Assembly on the details. It is almost certain that this debate would take place after the general election scheduled for next June, and perhaps not before 2023.

News of the move towards a legalization debate has sparked a mixed response from the UK-based anti-euthanasia alliance Care Not Killing.

Chief Executive Officer Dr Gordon Macdonald said: “It is disappointing that amid the Covid pandemic, which has seen widespread discrimination against the elderly and disabled, this report recommends legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide for the terminally ill and those who experience “unbearable suffering”.

“It is the language used in the Netherlands and Belgium that routinely kills people with disabilities, people with chronic illnesses and people with mental health issues, such as patients with dementia, treatable depression, d ‘anorexia and even victims of sexual abuse. “

A spokesperson for Care Not Killing also highlighted Jersey-based organizations available to help people with suicidal thoughts, bereavement, or a diagnosis of terminal or chronic illness. These include:

– The Recovery College –

– The Samaritans –

– The Youth Survey Service –

– Mind Jersey –

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