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78% of Jersey’s assisted dying citizens’ jury back changing the law

Jersey’s Citizens’ Jury on Assisted Dying has overwhelmingly recommended the legalisation of a right to die. Humanists UK gave oral and written expert evidence to the panel, which has published its initial report today. Humanists UK and Channel Islands Humanists have welcomed the publication as a major turning point for assisted dying. It expects the report now puts Jersey on course for a change in the law.

78% of the panellists recommended that assisted dying should be permitted for adults in Jersey. 70% recommended that it should be available to adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or experiencing unbearable suffering, subject to robust safeguards. This position matches Humanists UK’s.

Jersey’s citizens’ jury was convened in response to a petition started by Humanists UK’s Assisted Dying Coalition partners, End of Life Choices Jersey. It garnered support from 1,861 islanders. The panel of 23 randomly selected representative members met over a ten-week period earlier this year.

Humanists UK’s evidence centred on the importance of respecting an individual autonomy, and establishing a right to die for both those with terminal and incurable illnesses.

A final report is expected to be released later this year.

Channel Islands Humanists Committee member Deputy Louise Doublet commented:

‘We are delighted with the Citizens’ Jury’s report. A change in the law on assisted dying is the only way to respect the choice, dignity, and autonomy of Jersey citizens. Palliative care can provide many people with all the support they need. But for some of those in most dire need, assisted dying is the only option that can alleviate their suffering.

‘I’m really pleased that the process included high-quality and thought-provoking evidence from Channel Islands Humanists. I now look forward to the Government bringing an in principle debate to the Assembly to consider the recommendations of the jury. I hope it uses the same evenhanded and evidence-led approach that has got us to this point.’

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented: 

‘The recommendations of this report mark a major turning point in the campaign for legal assisted dying. If followed they clearly put Jersey on course for a landmark change in the law. It is not right that those with terminal or incurable conditions should be forced to die without dignity or to travel to Switzerland at great expense and with a risk of prosecution hanging over their loved ones. This report recognises the brutality of this situation. It finally puts to bed concerns about the public’s level of support when they engage with the details of a change in the law.

‘This report also shows that there is no rational or ethical basis for restricting assisted dying to those with six or fewer months left to live. Instead, it shows that those who are incurably suffering should be treated with equal dignity, respect, and compassion.

‘We urge lawmakers everywhere else in the UK and crown dependencies now pick up the baton and recognise the urgent need for change.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read the Citizens’ Jury’s report.

Jersey’s Citizens’ Jury was announced in February 2020 by Health Minister Deputy Richard Renouf. It followed an e-petition in 2018, backed by 1,861 islanders, calling for the States Assembly to amend Jersey’s law on assisted dying. The panel convened over a ten week period and heard from a range of experts, including Humanists UK. The question it considered was ‘Should assisted dying be permitted in Jersey, and if so, under what circumstances?’

The sessions were organised by the public participation charity Involve. They were commissioned to design and run the Jury including all of the participant liaison.

Read more about our campaign to legalise assisted dying.

Read more about Channel Island Humanists.

Channel Islands Humanists is a part of Humanists UK. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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