Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Jersey approves euthanasia and becomes the first UK parliament to amend the law

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The State Assembly of the Channel Islands voted 36 to 10 for a proposal on euthanasia, which paved the way for future euthanasia legislation.

The State Assembly voted 36-10 on Thursday to support a proposal on euthanasia and pave the way for future laws.

Jersey became the first UK parliament to approve euthanasia after a vote in the Channel Islands State Assembly.

The Jersey Council of Ministers is now tasked with drafting euthanasia laws to be debated by the State Assembly by the end of next year. However, a law that allows euthanasia cannot be ratified until 2023.

Jersey will not follow the route of the Swiss Dignitas Clinic, which allows people to travel from all over the world to end their lives.

Jersey law only allows residents 18 and over to opt for euthanasia if they are diagnosed with an incurable disease that is expected to result in excruciating suffering that cannot be alleviated and is reasonably expected to be dies within six months.

Even people who suffer from an incurable physical condition that leads to “unbearable, unreliable suffering” can take the path of euthanasia.

The law is also likely to provide that people who wish to end their life must have “a clear, regulated, informed desire to end their own life” and the “ability to choose”.

Part of the legislative process will also be whether or not euthanasia is offered free of charge or against payment. Jersey does not have an NHS, and while hospital treatment is free, other health visits, such as a doctor’s visit, must be paid for.

After a citizens’ jury was tasked with examining the arguments for and against legalization earlier this year, the State Assembly was asked to agree in principle that euthanasia should be allowed on the island under certain circumstances.

The jury strongly recommended that the law be amended to allow this choice for citizens who are mentally competent and either terminally ill or suffering intolerably. As a British Crown Dependency, Jersey may legislate on this matter independently of Westminster.

The vote comes with overwhelming public support, with nine out of ten islanders agreeing that the law should be changed to allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to choose euthanasia.

Paul Gazzard from St. Helier, whose husband Alain du Chemin died in May of glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain tumor, welcomed today’s result.

Mr du Chemin had arranged euthanasia at the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland, but his condition worsened before he could travel. Before his death, Alain submitted personal testimony to the citizens’ jury and sent a letter calling on the member states to support a change in the law on euthanasia.

Mr Gazzard said: “I am delighted that the Member States have chosen today to help the terminally ill and their families and to reject the ban on euthanasia. I was touched that several of the speeches referred to Alain; it would have been an honor for him to have played a part in this historic moment.

“Current Jersey law meant Alain was denied the right to die at home on his own terms, forcing us to arrange euthanasia in the middle of a pandemic. This consumed time and energy when both were tight and took its toll at an already difficult time. The possibility of euthanasia in Jersey alongside end-of-life care would have saved both of us so much stress and anxiety in his last few months.

“It is encouraging to know that in the future other terminally ill people may have this choice and not have to suffer like Alain and that his tireless efforts have not been in vain.”

Sarah Wootton, executive director of Dignity in Dying, who is campaigning for a change in law in the British Isles to make euthanasia a choice for terminally ill, mentally competent adults, added: “Today is a victory for common sense and compassion.” The State Assembly listened to the public and the clear mandate of the citizens’ jury to remedy this broken law.

“This historic vote paves the way for the first euthanasia legislation for British citizens, finally moving away from a cruel and outdated status quo that denies dying people the choice and forces them to suffer against their will.”

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