The law is ‘not fair’ – terminally ill man speaks out

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Alain du Chemin, who is suffering from an incurable brain tumour, has called on the government to change the law to prevent Islanders with similar conditions having to travel abroad to end their lives.

‘Time is not on my side at the moment and, therefore, I have to think of the future. I do not particularly want to go through the potential symptoms of an advanced brain tumour which can be very different person-to-person.

‘It depends on where the brain tumour grows and what it affects, and nobody can guarantee that for you, unfortunately. But it does mean there is the potential for it to be a very undignified matter of weeks or months.

‘At the moment the law is forcing me – if I stay in Jersey – to go through that and certainly I don’t want it myself knowing what the end will be. But also I don’t want my husband, or my parents, or my friends to watch me going like that. I would like them to remember me as I am at the moment.’

Mr du Chemin spoke to the JEP as arrangements are being made for a Citizens’ Jury of Islanders to consider whether assisted dying should be permitted in Jersey and, if so, under what circumstances. The panel is due to meet online for the first time on 18 March and to complete its task in ten sessions by the middle of May.

This follows a petition to the States in 2019 calling for individuals of capacity to be allowed their own end-of-life choices which attracted 1,861 signatures.

Mr du Chemin hopes to have the opportunity to speak directly to the panel but if this is impractical – he also wants to take part in a delayed medical trial in the forthcoming weeks – he said that he would like to feed his own personal experiences into the deliberations.

‘I really think that the law, as it is, is not fair because I have had to make a plan B – it is a plan B because it’s not what I want to do. I’m not depressed and I am still trying other options but the situation is so inequitable at the moment. Not everyone can hire a jet and fly to Dignitas in Switzerland but also it’s not what I want to do. I want to stay in Jersey as long as I can.

‘I really feel that my story makes quite a strong case for the law to be looked at again, and that’s why I’m hoping that by sharing it – and it’s not easy for anybody – it will help inform discussions in the future so that other people don’t have to go through what I’m having to go through.’

Last weekend, Mr du Chemin married his partner, Paul, in what he described as a ‘fantastic day’ in spite of the challenges and the coronavirus restrictions currently in place.

Ellie Ball, a spokesperson for Dignity in Dying, the UK-based campaign group which has helped Mr du Chemin tell his story, said that they hoped that the members of the Jersey jury and States Members would have the opportunity to hear directly from him.

‘His and our message is that the current law is outdated, cruel and unsafe, and that a transparent, safeguarded assisted-dying law would provide choice and control to dying Islanders while providing robust protection to the rest of society. This has been proven to work overseas and we are confident that a safe and effective law can be developed for Jersey,’ she said.

Her comments were echoed by Michael Talibard, a spokesman for the End of Life Choices Jersey group, who said that his heart went out to Alain.

‘In his situation, the added problem of having to decide when and how to travel to a more merciful jurisdiction is appalling. End of Life Choices Jersey was founded from just such a case, and we hope his courage in speaking out will be rewarded,’ he said.

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