Lawmakers on Guernsey, the second-largest of the Channel Islands, started debating a bill Wednesday that would eventually allow people to legally end their lives.
The bill, known as a requete, was introduced by Guernsey Chief Minister Gavin St Pier, who has championed the cause using the hashtag #mycaremychoice and who believes the question is one of basic human rights.
He wants to see legislation that would allow terminally ill people with less than six months to live to end their own lives with the help of a doctor.
The 40 lawmakers in Guernsey’s Parliament — known as the States of Deliberation — will eventually vote on whether to “agree in principle to the development of a suitable legal regime to permit assisted dying in Guernsey.”
An amendment put forward by St Pier last week in response to accusations of vagueness in the original proposal prioritizes the need to improve palliative care and capacity legislation and specifies that the process should be available only to “terminally ill adults resident in Guernsey with mental capacity and less than 6 months to live.”
Implications for the UK
If the measure passes, a period of consultation will follow, during which a working group will speak with relevant groups, including members of the public, medical professionals and the UK Ministry of Justice. The group will then produce a set of recommendations for how the regime could be implemented.
Key questions such as the role of doctors in the process and how vulnerable individuals can be protected would be addressed in these recommendations.
Responding to suggestions that the island could become a euthanasia destination, St Pier insists that the law will apply only to local residents. However, this aspect is part of the debate, along with the other specifics of the legislation.
Whatever the outcome, there will be implications for the UK, where medically assisted suicide is illegal, despite a number of recent campaigns.
As a British Crown Dependency, Guernsey can set its own laws, but these must be approved by the Privy Council, a group of senior Westminster politicians who assess the future impact of the legislation on the UK.
The process will probably trigger a renewed debate in the UK, where a bill on assisted dying was rejected by MPs in 2015. Debate at the time was heated, and opinions on the island seem equally divided.
‘A real threat to some’
Though a number of lawmakers are backing St Pier, others are concerned about the open-ended nature of the proposals and the potential for exploitation.
A small number of countries that have legalized forms of physician-assisted suicide, including Japan, Belgium and Switzerland. Several US states also have legislation that allows it.
News credit : Cnn