Guernsey votes against legalising assisted dying

By staff writers
May 20, 2018

The States of Guernsey Assembly has voted against proposals to grant legal recognition to assisted dying. The proposals, which were brought forward by Chief Minister Gavin St Pier, were defeated by 24 votes to 14.

Had the vote passed, the States of Guernsey would have established a working party for the development of legislation to permit assisted dying with appropriate safeguards within 18 months. This regime would have permitted adults who are of sound mind, are terminally ill, and who have six months or fewer left to live, the information, support, and means to end their life at the time of their choice, subject to stringent safeguards.

The proposals were supported by Humanists UK and Channel Islands Humanists. Richy Thompson,Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy  said, "As medical science has become more advanced, so too has our ability to keep people alive for longer than ever before. This development in science is to be welcomed but it also means that many people end up suffering for longer before they die. The proposals that Guernsey has voted on today, therefore, were needed more now than at any other time in our history.

"We are disappointed by today’s outcome, which will let down many people who need a change in the law. With more and more jurisdictions around the world making assisted dying legal, it seems clear to us that legal assisted dying in Guernsey and across the rest of these isles is surely a matter of when, not if."

The measure had been resisted by church leaders on the island who had said it would pose a threat to the elderly, people with disabilities and other vulnerable people.

In an open letter, 53 ministers and officials from Catholic, Church of England and Methodist churches on the island, said that they believe the proposal to legalise assisted dying is “misplaced” and a “danger for us as a community”, particularly the most vulnerable.

“To assist in the death of another is essentially to assist in their suicide. A “choice” by the State to introduce assisted-dying will change our island and will be seen as a threat by people living with various disabilities, vulnerable people and ultimately, perhaps, by all of us, as we approach the end of our lives”, they wrote.

Guernsey is a British Crown Dependency situated off the coast of northern France. It relies on the UK government for foreign relations and defence, but is otherwise largely self-governing.

[Ekk/4]

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