Jersey approves plans to allow assisted dying for terminally ill adults

Legislation expected to be brought by end of 2025, with service for residents in place by mid-2027

Jersey is to move ahead with allowing assisted dying for people with a terminal illness after a vote in its parliament on Wednesday.

Legislation is expected to be brought before the island’s states assembly by the end of 2025, and an assisted dying service for residents to be in place by mid-2027.

As a crown dependency, Jersey can make its own laws. The Isle of Man, another crown dependency, is also expected to legalise assisted dying for residents in the next 18 months.

In the Scottish parliament, a bill to allow assisted dying for terminally ill adults could have its first vote later this year.

At Westminster, Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer have both promised to allow time for a backbench bill in the next parliament under pressure from public opinion and a significant shift in the views of MPs since the last vote in 2015.

Jersey legislators voted roughly two to one in favour of establishing an assisted dying service for adults with a terminal illness who have a life expectancy of six months, or 12 months if they have a neurodegenerative disease. Applicants must have made a voluntary and informed decision to die.

The assembly rejected a proposal to allow assisted dying to people with an incurable physical condition that may not be terminal but caused them unbearable suffering.

The legislators also overwhelmingly backed an opt-out for health professionals, giving them a legal right to refuse to participate in assisted dying.

The votes came after a two-day debate during which arguments on both sides were set out in a sober and thoughtful manner. Some assembly members were close to tears as they spoke of personal experiences of the deaths of loved ones.

Tributes were paid to Jersey residents who have campaigned for assisted dying, such as Gary Burgess, a local journalist who died of brain cancer, Charlie Tostevin, whohas motor neurone disease, and Alain du Chemin, who had a brain tumour and spent his final months advocating for reform.

Opening the debate, Tom Binet, the health minister, said the “momentum of change had never been stronger”. Another assembly member, Steve Ahier, said the proposition “could be an exemplar for other parts of the British Isles to follow”.

But Mike Keirle, the Anglican dean of Jersey, told the assembly there was a “very real possibility of abuse”. He added: “This is not just about personal ethics but societal ethics … how we place value on human beings.” The issues at the heart of the debate went “beyond personal accountability and choice”, he said.

The proposals were drawn up after a citizens’ jury overwhelmingly backed assisted dying for adult residents of Jersey in 2021.

Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of the Dignity in Dying campaign, said: “Today’s vote is a victory for compassion and common sense. We congratulate states members for listening to the wishes of Jersey citizens and rejecting the assisted dying ban. They have recognised that doing nothing and maintaining the status quo is unconscionable.

“Jersey is on the cusp of historic change to give dying people the choice and compassion that they are calling out for.”