Guernsey parliament debates assisted dying bill

Guernsey's vote on the issue has been welcomed by campaigners as "positive and progressive"

Guernsey's vote on the issue has been welcomed by campaigners as "positive and progressive"

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Guernsey could take a step towards legalising assisted dying when its parliament debates whether to allow terminally ill people to end their lives with the help of a doctor.

The States of Guernsey will consider whether it agrees in principle with a bill tabled by the island's chief minister Gavin St Pier.

Should the 40-strong parliament agree an 18-month consultation will be carried out.

The Channel Island would become the only place in the British Isles to legalise assisted dying if the bill then passes into law.

Assisted dying is banned in the UK, while as a British Crown dependency Guernsey makes its own laws.

Guernsey's vote on the issue has been welcomed by campaigners as "positive and progressive".

Earlier this month Noel Conway, a motor neurone disease sufferer from Shrewsbury, launched a legal bid to be given the right to enlist help from medical professionals to bring about a "peaceful and dignified" death.

Mr Conway, 68, wants to be helped to die and said he has made a "voluntary, clear, settled and informed" decision.

The retired lecturer proposed that he could only receive assistance to die if a judge determined that he meets all of those criteria.

He previously asked the High Court for a declaration that the Suicide Act 1961 is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relates to respect for private and family life, and Article 14, which protects from discrimination.

His case was rejected in October last year, but a full appeal against that ruling began on May 1.

The Appeal Court heard that any change in the law on assisted dying should be made by politicians and not judges.

Lawyers representing the Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke argued Parliament represents the "conscience of the nation" and is better placed to consider the impact of changing the law in this "sensitive policy area".

In April Mr St Pier said: "Governments can choose to lead or they can choose to follow the will of the people; either way, giving terminally ill individuals their right to informed end-of-life choices is inevitable. The difference is simply: when?"

Sarah Wootton, chief executive at Dignity in Dying, said: "We should applaud the people of Guernsey for beginning this discussion and must hope that their positive, progressive example is followed here."