Jersey votes to let terminally ill end their lives

Andrew Gregory writes in the Sunday Times:

Jersey is set to become the first part of the British Isles to legalise assisted dying after a citizens’ jury voted overwhelmingly in favour of changing the law.

There is growing evidence that elected politicians are enthusiastic to outsource controversial decisions to randomly selected citizens juries. Here’s the the article (by the Sunday Times’ Health Editor).

A panel of islanders said last week it was in favour of ending the ban on assisted dying after an independent inquiry heard months of expert evidence and personal testimony. The Sunday Times, backed by politicians from all parties, some senior doctors and religious leaders, is campaigning to legalise assisted dying across the UK.

Last week 78 per cent of the citizens’ jury — 18 of the 23 islanders who had been selected at random — said assisted dying should be legal. The jury called for terminally ill islanders to be able to seek help to end their life, subject to safeguards. Eight in ten Britons support having a right to assisted dying, polls suggest.

As a crown dependency, Jersey can legislate on assisted dying independently of Britain. The jury’s recommendations will be followed by a full report in September. Jersey’s Council of Ministers will then lodge a proposition asking the States Assembly, the island’s parliament, to agree that assisted dying be legalised.

“The people of Jersey have declared loud and clear that they want choice and control over their deaths alongside high-quality palliative care,” said Sarah Wootton, chief executive of campaign group Dignity in Dying.

private member’s bill to legalise assisted dying in England and Wales had its first reading in the Lords last month. The proposed law would apply to mentally competent adults in the last six months of a terminal illness, with two doctors and a judge assessing each request. A similar bill was launched in Scotland last week.

Paul Gazzard, whose husband Alain du Chemin died of brain cancer last month, welcomed Jersey’s move. Du Chemin gave evidence to the citizens’ jury and wrote an open letter to the States Assembly. He was planning an assisted death in Switzerland but his health deteriorated and he died in Jersey in a local hospice.

This undermines a recent claim by Oliver Milne that “the only way sortitional democracy is likely to be instituted is through social conflict and crisis – the sort of crisis that produces a constitutional moment in which sortitional institutions can be set up . . . we’re in the business of stripping power from its present holders! We can’t expect their cooperation in that enterprise.”

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