Jersey publishes proposals for possible introduction of assisted dying legislation

Proposals for how an assisted dying law in Jersey would work have been published.

Only adults who have lived on the island for 12 months and who are terminally ill or have an incurable condition with unbearable suffering would be eligible, the proposals state.

A debate in the States Assembly (pictured) is planned for May, with a vote then expected on whether to proceed with drawing up legislation.

If the proposals are voted through, it is expected the process for drafting a law could take around 18 months, with a debate then taking place by the end of 2025.

If a law was approved it is expected a further 18-month implementation period would begin, meaning the earliest for a law to come into effect would be spring or summer 2027.

In February, a report by MPs at Westminster warned that the Government must consider what to do if the law is changed in part of the UK or on the Isle of Man or Jersey, both of which are crown dependencies.

The Health and Social Care Committee said legalisation in at least one jurisdiction is looking “increasingly likely” and suggested the Government must be “actively involved” in discussions about how to approach differences in the law.

The proposals for Jersey, set out on Friday, describe how the Jersey assisted dying service would work, who would be eligible for an assisted death, and how a person’s eligibility would be assessed.

Amendments could be made between now and May.

Jersey’s minister for health and social services, Tom Binet, said: “Assisted dying is a complex issue which other jurisdictions are also actively working to consider.

“The proposals brought forward by the Council of Ministers are very comprehensive and will help ensure that our Assembly does justice to this important matter”.

The proposals state that the person must have a voluntary, clear, settled and informed wish to end their own life, and have capacity to make the decision to end their own life.

They must be aged 18 or over at the point at which they make a first formal request for an assisted death and must be “ordinarily resident” in Jersey – meaning someone who lives on the island and not those only temporarily there for work, study or holidays.

The proposals state that the requirement to have lived there for a minimum of 12 consecutive months in the period immediately before making a first formal request for an assisted death is “intended to discourage ‘death tourism’”, whereby people travel to Jersey specifically for the purposes of accessing the assisted dying service.

The proposals also state there should be minimum timeframes between a person’s request to access the service and the date they die in an effort to “help safeguard against hasty decision-making or fluctuating wishes for an assisted death”.

For someone who is terminally ill, this would be a 14-day minimum timeframe – which the proposals state is in line with a number of other countries.

For those living with an incurable physical medical condition which gives rise to unbearable suffering “that cannot be alleviated in a manner the person deems to be tolerable”, the minimum timeframe would be 90 days.

The proposals state that for the latter, “a decision to end their life through assisted dying is altering the trajectory of their life in a way that is fundamentally different from a person who has a terminal illness” and states that the 90-day period allows time for additional assessments to be made as well as time to ensure all other treatment and pain relief options have been explored.

Anyone requesting an assisted death would need to be assessed for eligibility by a minimum of two doctors.

Assisted suicide is banned in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.

In Scotland, it is not a specific criminal offence but assisting the death of someone can leave a person open to murder or other charges.

A Bill put forward by Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur to make assisted dying legal in Scotland is expected to come before Holyrood in the coming weeks.

On the Isle of Man, a committee has been scrutinising a Bill to legalise assisted dying and the proposed law is expected to be debated by the island’s wider Parliament soon.

The conversation around assisted dying has returned to the spotlight in recent months, with campaigner Dame Esther Rantzen revealing she has joined Dignitas as she lives with stage four cancer.

Earlier this month, Sir Keir Starmer said he is “committed” to allowing a vote on legalising assisted dying should Labour win the general election.

Downing Street has previously said it would be up to Parliament whether to again debate legalising assisted dying.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said publication of the proposals is “a step closer to some terminally ill Britons having meaningful choice over their death”.

She said the Jersey Government “must be applauded for its leadership on this historic issue”.

She urged Westminster MPs to “take note”, adding: “Assisted dying is firmly on the electorate’s agenda as we approach what is set to be a watershed general election.”

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