Jersey approves legalising assisted dying in principle in first for Britain

Demonstrators, including Humanists UK's members and supporters, during a protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London to call for reform as peers debate the new assisted dying legislation. Picture date: Friday October 22, 2021.
Demonstrators, including Humanists UK's members and supporters, during a protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London to call for reform as peers debate the new assisted dying legislation. Picture date: Friday October 22, 2021.

States Assembly votes 36 in favour on allowing people who are terminally ill to choose to die

Published

Jersey politicians have voted to approve the principle of legalising assisted dying in the island, meaning it could become the first place in Britain to approve assisted dying.

The State Assembly supported a proposal on the principle that people should be allowed to choose to die.

The vote by Jersey politicians was 36 in favour, 10 against and three absent and was held after a citizens jury urged for a law change.

Following the vote, a further debate will be held next year when details of the processes and safeguards have been drafted.

Jersey’s Council of Ministers are expected to draft new legislation on the matter, with the possibility of a draft law being voted on in 2023.

This comes after a terminally ill peer has led calls to relax assisted dying laws, as fresh proposals split the House of Lords during a marathon eight-hour debate in October.

Frank Field, 79, has just spent time in a hospice and his illness meant he was unable to join more than 130 other speakers to consider the Assisted Dying Bill.

But the former minister, known as Lord Field of Birkenhead, said the experiences of an MP friend dying of cancer had led him to change his mind and back a law change.

The Bill, tabled by independent peer Baroness Meacher, would give patients of sound mind, with six months or less left to live, the right to die by taking life-ending medication.

It received an unopposed second reading, as is convention for private members’ bills in the upper house, and will undergo further scrutiny at a later stage.

While many peers spoke against the proposals, plans to wreck the Bill traditionally come to the fore at committee and report.

Campaigners say a change in the law would give those at the end of their lives greater control over how and when they die.