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Jersey's Assisted Dying Plans Revealed

The government has lodged its proposals for an assisted dying service in Jersey, with an estimated annual cost of up to £1.4 million.

It is estimated between six and 38 people will use the service each year after it is set up, which could be as soon as summer 2027.

The Council of Ministers' proposition calculates the one-off cost of starting the service could be £1,018,195, which includes implementation, training, the service itself and the regulation, oversight and approval.

It puts the ongoing financing at between £647,814 and £1,403,036 a year. 

Figures from jurisdictions which have already introduced an assisted dying service, such as West Australia, Canada and Oregon have been used to help estimate figures.

Health Minister Deputy Tom Binet says it will be funded separately and will not come out of any existing budget.

"It'll be new money, but it will be taxpayers' money and it'll be free at the point of delivery, so it's not a service for which there will be any charge."

The proposition allows people in Jersey - and those in other jurisdictions watching what might happen here - to see how an assisted dying service could look in the island.

Fran Hall from the charity Dignity in Dying says it commends the government over its leadership on assisted dying.

"They've listened to the Jersey public, to citizens, to dying people and their loved ones and they're taking steps forward towards a law that is certainly going to be better, safer and more compassionate than the status quo.

We know at the moment that the status quo is unequal, and favours those who've got the funds to travel abroad to other countries like Switzerland where assisted dying is legal for foreign nationals and our most recent research found that this costs upwards of £15,000.

It causes a huge amount of harm to dying people who are forced to suffer against their wishes or take the arduous and expensive journey for an assisted death abroad with their loved ones potentially facing prosecution or be forced to take matters into their own hands."

Islanders who would like to use the service would have to be over 18 and a resident in Jersey for more than 12 months.

They would also have to do two assessments by two doctors to check eligibility, which includes the ability to have decision-making capacity and have a clear, informed and voluntary wish to end their own life.

Under the proposition there are two routes a patient could choose, this includes:

  • Route One - A terminal illness which is expected to cause death in six months for a physical illness or 12 months for a neurodegenerative condition.
  • Route Two - Unbearable suffering from a physical illness which cannot be alleviated in a way the person deems tolerable.

When States Members debate the proposal in May, they can choose to accept both, one, or neither routes.

If accepted by the Assembly, assisted dying substances would be stored, dispensed and packed by Jersey General Hospital, and nowhere else.

Another area explored by the proposition is potential offences linked with assisted dying.

They include the unauthorised administration of assisted dying substances, inducing a person to request or revoke a request for assisted dying, inducing someone to take an assisted dying substance, and faking documents.

Assisted Dying has been a topic of debate for many years, with the then States Assembly agreeing in November 2021 to approve assisted dying in principle.

In November 2023, a group of experts reviewed an assisted dying proposal, to help inform States Assembly and the public ahead of the latest debate.

States Members will be debating the proposition in nine weeks' time (21 May), rather than the typical six weeks, to allow for more time to consider the proposition.

If approved, it could take 12 to 18 months before a draft law is drawn up. This draft legislation would also need to debated by a future States Assembly,

Public briefing sessions will take place during the lodging period so that Islanders can discover more about how the proposed assisted dying service would work.

The sessions will take place on:

  • Tuesday 26 March, 12:00 pm -12:45 pm, St Paul’s Centre;
  • Tuesday 26 March, 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm, St Paul’s Centre;
  • Thursday 2 May, 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm, St Clement’s Parish Hall.

 Guernsey rejected a similar proposal in May 2018 but it is expected to be brought back to the Assembly before mid 2025.

Deputy Binet says assisted dying is a complex issue.

"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."

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