A citizens’ panel of 23 islanders in Jersey, tasked with examining the case for assisted dying reform, has urged lawmakers to legalise the right to an assisted death. The full report from Jersey’s Citizens’ Jury on Assisted Dying has been welcomed by Channel Islands Humanists, who has urged Jersey’s Council of Ministers to take note of its conclusions.
Earlier this year, the citizens’ panel spent nearly 25 hours listening to experts both for and against assisted dying, and questioning their evidence. Following these sessions, 78% of participants thought that assisted dying should be made legal for adults living in Jersey that either had a terminal illness or unbearable suffering, subject to robust safeguards. This aligns with Humanists UK’s policy.
Notably, the publication of this report also reveals that nearly 6 in 10 (59%) panellists thought assisted dying should be limited to those with physical conditions. Additionally, nearly 8 in 10 (77%) recommended the safeguard of a court or tribunal oversight process.
Participants were also given an opportunity to express key messages that they wanted the Council of Ministers to consider. Contributions ranged from urging lawmakers to recognise that assisted dying was about ‘compassion and letting people die with dignity’; highlighting that ‘assisted dying in Jersey is not just a humane route but one that allows people the peace of mind in the last stages of their life whether they choose to use it or not’; and noting that ‘With adequate criteria and safeguards in place, combined with robust reporting and scrutiny framework post event, there is no reason to believe the option would be abused’.
Jersey’s citizens’ jury was convened in response to a petition started by Humanists UK’s Assisted Dying Coalition partners, End of Life Choices Jersey. Humanists UK, who submitted evidence to the jury, centred its submission on the importance of respecting individual autonomy, and establishing a right to die for both those with terminal and incurable illnesses.
Jersey’s Council of Ministers is now responsible for drafting proposals for reform which are expected to be debated in principle later this year.
Responding to the final report, Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:
‘This report is yet another step in the right direction towards a significant change in the law in Jersey. It is sometimes alleged by opponents that when people learn more about assisted dying their support for legislation decreases. The publication of this report is therefore highly significant, because it shows the detailed deliberations and scrutiny that panellists undertook before empathetically recommending a change in the law.
‘A particularly striking conclusion from this report was the extent to which “fairness” was at the forefront of jurors’ minds when they recommended an inclusive assisted dying law. This means one for both the terminally ill and those with unbearable suffering. With up to 90% of islanders now supporting a change in the law, and nearly half of all medics endorsing reform, we strongly urge the Council of Ministers to take note of these findings and base its forthcoming proposals on the jurors’ recommendations.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at email@example.com or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
Jersey’s Citizens’ Jury was announced in February 2020 by Health Minister Deputy Richard Renouf. It followed an e-petition in 2018, backed by 1,861 islanders, calling for the States Assembly to amend Jersey’s law on assisted dying. The panel convened over a ten week period and heard from a range of experts, including Humanists UK. The question it considered was ‘Should assisted dying be permitted in Jersey, and if so, under what circumstances?’
The sessions were organised by the public participation charity Involve. They were commissioned to design and run the Jury including all of the participant liaison.
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