Debate date for assisted dying plans pushed back

Health Minister Karen Wilson said that while the steps involved in bringing proposals to permit assisted dying in Jersey remained unchanged, the “timings of these steps have been revised“ Picture: JON GUEGAN (36715927)

PLANS to make assisted dying legal in Jersey have been delayed, the Health Minister has confirmed.

Citing an ‘end-of-year rush’ in the States Assembly and the need to give politicians enough time to consider what is being planned, the date when politicians will debate the new law has been pushed back by around six months.

States Members had been due to consider Deputy Karen Wilson’s proposals in February next year. However, it was revealed in an update shared by the minister that this date had been pushed back, with the debate now earmarked for the third quarter of 2024.

The revised timeline was described by Deputy Wilson as a reflection of “the time and consideration required to consider this issue”, encompassing two primary aims:

– Avoiding lodging proposals to coincide with the Government Plan or the Christmas period.

– Giving States Members sufficient time to scrutinise and understand the detailed proposals, in line with a request from the Health and Social Security Scrutiny panel.

Deputy Wilson said: “Earlier this year, we published the Assisted Dying Consultation Feedback Report. At the same time, I also advised of the next steps in developing proposals and the anticipated timeframe.

“While these steps remain unchanged, through discussion with ministers and the Scrutiny panel, timings of these steps have been revised.”

The matter is being considered by a ministerial working group comprising Deputy Wilson, Home Affairs Minister Helen Miles and Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf.

The key stages on the new timeline are:

– Fourth quarter of 2023 – ethics review on proposals to be published.

– First quarter of 2024 – proposals to be further refined using ethics review and lodged for debate.

– Third quarter of 2024 – States Assembly debate.

Should the Assembly approve the policy proposals, work would then begin on the preparation of a draft assisted dying law, with an expectation from the government that this work would take “a minimum of 12 to 18 months” due to the complexity of the topic.

If the draft law is then approved by politicians, it is anticipated that an 18-month implementation period would begin before the law came into effect.

Assisted dying proposals were first brought to the Assembly by Deputy Wilson’s predecessor Richard Renouf, although the then-Health Minister voted against the concept following a debate in November 2021.

Deputy Wilson concluded: “This is a sensitive subject and we are committed to ensuring the community and States Members are provided with all the information needed for consideration.”