Scrutiny panel calls for more detail on assisted-dying plan

Louise Doublet..Picture:DAVID FERGUSON. (37753168)

A SCRUTINY panel reviewing proposals for assisted dying have called for the Health Minister to provide further details about what is planned.

Following a convincing vote by States Members in 2021 in favour of the principle of allowing Islanders the right to die in certain defined circumstances, politicians are next week due to debate details about how it would become part of Jersey law.

The Assisted Dying Review Panel, chaired by Deputy Louise Doublet, has published a report ahead of the debate, including a number of findings and recommendations.

Deputy Doublet describes the topic as “one of the most important areas of policy and legislation that any States Assembly will ever be asked to consider”.

In the introduction to the report, she states: “How we deal with death and dying in our community is just as important as the way we deal with life and living.

“We must not shy away from this – a ‘good death’ is just as important as a good life.”

One of four key recommendations within the report concerns palliative and end-of-life care, with a call for Health Minister Tom Binet to publish a plan covering this issue at least two months before detailed legislation – expected to take around 18 months to be drafted – comes back to the Assembly.

The panel also expresses concern that the proposition lodged by ministers does not cover the training required in order to identify and prevent potential coercion. It has asked Deputy Binet to provide details about training before the law is debated.

The report also says that the General Hospital should only be used as a setting for assisted dying “as a last resort”, and that sufficient planning takes place to prioritise patient wishes about where an assisted death would take place.

Although the existing proposals only cover assisted deaths for those aged 18 and above, the report also addresses the potential that this age limit might be adjusted at a later date. It calls on the Health Minister to engage with the children’s commissioner before any future consultation with under-18s takes place.

The report also calls for Deputy Binet to provide greater detail before next week’s debate in three areas: concerns raised by a recent ethical review about unbearable suffering being one of the routes for assisted dying; the strategy for palliative and end-of-life care; and how the proposed assisted-dying tribunal would operate.

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