Isle of Man dying Bill not workable, Baroness Finlay tells its parliament

Legislation for assisted dying in the Isle of Man is “not workable” in its current form, a palliative care expert has told its parliament.

The detail of wording in the Assisted Dying Bill was being debated on Tuesday, on the second day of its clauses stage.

Campaigners for legal change have previously suggested the island could be the first jurisdiction among the UK, Ireland and the Crown Dependencies of Jersey and the Isle of Man to legislate for assisted dying.

Baroness Finlay addressed the Isle of Man's parliament on the issue of assisted dying (House of Lords/PA)
Baroness Finlay addressed the Isle of Man’s parliament on the issue of assisted dying (House of Lords/PA)

In the first stage of debate on the clauses stage of the Bill last week, MHKs voted that a person seeking an assisted death should have to be resident on the island for five years instead of one, and that the life expectancy criteria be extended from six months to a year.

The parliament is now considering further elements of the legislation including how a declaration by a terminally ill person of their clear and settled intention to end their own life is assessed and how and by whom assistance to die might be given.

Dr Allinson cited the current wording that a declaration must be witnessed by two registered medical practitioners who are satisfied the decision has been reached voluntarily on an informed basis without coercion or duress.

Baroness Finlay, an expert in palliative care and a peer in the UK House of Lords, was invited to give evidence at Tuesday’s session in the Isle of Man.

Baroness Finlay said: “I would have to say that I think at the moment, as it’s written, it’s not workable.

“It does need to be amended. One of the biggest omissions that you have is actually how the assessments are done, because they’re being done behind closed doors by two doctors without really knowing exactly what’s going on.”

She said doctors are unable to ask about bank statements and people’s wills as that is deemed inappropriate, before adding that “coercion we know is missed very often”.

She added that doctors on the Isle of Man “are clearly against this and they want it operated outside of Manx health” as she told MHKs it is “really important that you listen to them”.

Dr Alex Allinson brought forward the Isle of Man's Assisted Dying Bill (Dignity in Dying/PA)
Dr Alex Allinson brought forward the Isle of Man’s Assisted Dying Bill (Dignity in Dying/PA)

An amendment has been proposed by chief minister Alfred Cannan that the Assisted Dying Bill would have to be put to a referendum before becoming law.

Dr Allison described assisted dying as a “serious and extremely important issue”, and said he appreciated the “dedication members have shown throughout the process of bringing this Bill to the House and the contribution from members of our community with all points of view”.

If voted through, the Bill could receive a Third Reading in the House of Keys in summer, before moving onto the parliament’s Upper House.

Campaigners have said if the Bill was to gain Royal Assent next year, assisted dying could potentially be available to eligible Manx residents from 2027.

Next week, the States Assembly in Jersey will debate assisted dying proposals, with a vote then expected on whether to proceed with drawing up legislation.

A Bill was published in March at Holyrood that, if passed, would allow people living in Scotland with a terminal illness to be given help to end their life.

A Westminster Hall debate was held in London last month, after a petition backed by Dame Esther Rantzen – who has spoken out strongly on her support for a change in the law in the UK.

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