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Jersey approves assisted dying in principle in first for Britain

The Independent logo The Independent 25/11/2021 Colin Drury
Demonstrators call for a change in the law to support assisted dying outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on October  - Getty © Getty

Demonstrators call for a change in the law to support assisted dying outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on October

- Getty

Jersey looks set to become the first place in Britain to approve assisted dying after a landmark vote by the island’s States Assembly.

Law-makers supported a proposal that people should, in principle, be allowed to choose to die.

The vote – held after a citizens jury strongly recommended a law change - now paves the way for Jersey’s Council of Ministers to draft new legislation on the matter.

As a British Crown Dependency, Jersey is able to legislate on the issue independently from Westminster.

The vote on Thursday morning came amid overwhelming public support for assisted dying to be legalised: some 90 per cent of islanders agree that terminally ill adults should be allowed to chose to die as long as they are mentally competent.

Just three per cent believed that Jersey should wait for London to act first on the issue.

Paul Gazzard, a St Helier resident whose husband Alain du Chemin died of brain cancer in May, welcomed the vote. Alain himself had contributed personal testimony to to the citizens’ jury.

“I am delighted that States Members have chosen today to stand with terminally ill people and their loved ones and reject the ban on assisted dying,” he said. “I was touched that several speeches referred to Alain; he would have been honoured to have played a part in this historic moment.

“The current law in Jersey meant that Alain was denied the right to die on his own terms at home, forcing us to try to arrange an assisted death abroad in the middle of a pandemic. This sapped time and energy when both were in short supply, taking a toll at an already difficult time. To have had the option of assisted dying in Jersey alongside end-of-life care would have saved us both so much stress and anxiety in his final months.”

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, which campaigns across the British Isles for a law change to allow assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults, said: “Today is a victory for common-sense and compassion.”

She added: “The States Assembly has listened to the public and the clear mandate given to them by the citizens’ jury to fix this broken law. This historic vote paves the way for the first assisted dying legislation for British citizens, moving at long last away from a cruel and outdated status quo that denies dying people choice and forces them to suffer against their wishes.”

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