Jersey parliament approves legalising assisted dying after citizens' jury

25. November 2021
David Blaikie / Flickr (CC BY 2.0 Deed)

Following citizens' jury recommendations, Jersey politicians have approved the principle of legalising assisted dying in the island on 24 November 2021. A public debate on the procedure and security rules is currently taking place. If this supports the proposals of the citizens' jury, a draft law could be discussed and voted on in 2023.

In Spring 2021, a citizens' jury has voted overwhelmingly in favour of changing the law on assisted dying. 78.3 per cent of the citizens' jury participants voted in favour of allowing assisted dying for adults under certain conditions. However, strict rules should be followed. A majority of 69.6 per cent also believed that assisted dying should be available for people with an incurable disease or unbearable suffering. 22 per cent felt that this option should be limited to the terminally ill.

Citizens' Jury convened in response to a petition

The Citizens' Jury had been convened in response to a petition by the My Death, My Decision's Assisted Dying Coalition partners, End of Life Choices Jersey, which had been signed by 1,861 islanders. The Citizens' Jury of 23 randomly selected people had met online over a ten-week period from March to May 2021.

During the deliberations, the Citizens' Jury members had dealt with a number of issues related to assisted dying. These included, for example, what other countries' attitudes are to this and who should be entitled to make use of assisted dying. It also addressed ethical and faith issues and the perspectives of relatives, carers and loved ones. In addition, experts from the health and social services sectors were heard.

Voting results

First, 47.8 per cent of Citizens' Jury participants agreed in principle that assisted dying should be allowed in Jersey. 26.1 per cent wanted this to depend on the circumstances, while 17.4 per cent opposed assisted dying. 77.3 per cent were in favour of a court or specialist body being involved in the decision-making process before allowing assisted dying. Votes were also taken on assisted dying for the mentally ill, a minimum age, the methods that could be used, those who should be able to provide assisted dying and the need for a cooling-off period between the request and the implementation of assisted dying. In the end, under the conditions set, 78.3 of the Citizens' Jury members were in favour of allowing assisted dying.

The final Assembly report was published on 15 September 2021. The Council of Ministers published a report on assisted dying in September before the Members of the Island Parliament decided on the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly in November 2021.

Citizens' consultation on assisted dying

In October 2022, the Jersey Government launched a citizens' consultation on the citizens' assembly proposals on assisted dying. Islanders and organisations were invited to give their views on how the proposals could be implemented until 14 January 2023. The consultation process consisted of an online survey and events where citizens could voice their opinions. Following the conclusion of the consultation process, Parliament began its deliberations on detailed proposals on assisted dying in March 2023.

On assisted suicide, Health Minister Richard Renouf said, "If this was ever to be introduced then we must make sure we have the most robust safeguards to make sure that we arrive at decisions that really reflect people's will, and are not decisions that are reached just because people feel they are becoming a burden to their families or society."

Survey majority in favour of assisted dying

A residents' survey conducted in May 2021 on behalf of Dignity in Dying in Jersey had found that 73 per cent of islanders were in favour of assisted dying, compared to 69 per cent on the neighbouring island of Guernsey.

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