The Channel Island is set to consider taking its first steps towards legalising assisted dying. But the details are more complex than you might thinkby Theodore Stone / May 16, 2018 / Leave a comment
The right to die remains one of the most socially and politically controversial debates within our society. The number of failed legal cases, pleading for the right to die on individual terms, are near-countless. No matter how many have campaigned for a change in the law on assisted suicide, none have yet borne fruit in Britain.
This may be about to change.
In a surprising turn of events, the Channel Island of Guernsey is set to consider taking its first steps towards legalising assisted dying, via a requête (the equivalent to a private members bill) backed by the island’s senior-most politician, alongside six of his colleagues.
If the island’s People’s Deputies (MPs) vote in favour of the now-reduced legislation, it is expected that a working party would be set up to develop ways of making assisted dying work in Guernsey—but without a set deadline, with the island’s President of the Policy and Resources Committee (the equivalent to Chief Minister) and primary supporter, Gavin St. Pier, admitting that the process could take “years.”
Nonetheless, he remains adamant that there is “pretty strong evidence that there is public support for this.”
The decision to support the legislation was shaped by his father’s death from cardiovascular disease nine years ago. Speaking to the Huffington Post, he recognised that it “wasn’t a death he would have chosen for himself. He very clearly wanted to be in control and of course he wasn’t.”
However, the Committee itself will not be supporting the legislation, owing to the lack of outlines for funding and logistics.
In response, St. Pier made a radical turnaround on 10 May, asking for proposals that the States’ approval of the requête lead to the acceptance of assisted dying ‘in principle’ to be dropped.
His original vision for the legislation mirrors that used by the State of Oregon. Oregon’s law, which has been in effect since 1997, allows a citizen to end their life through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, which are prescribed to them by their physician.
Although Guernsey is part of the British Isles, and thus held under “territories for which the United Kingdom is responsible,” the island is independent of the United Kingdom when it comes to enacting legislation, and hence is able to largely…