Scottish experts leading the fight to improve end of life care and legalise assisted dying for those with terminal illnesses or incurable conditions will travel to Guernsey this week to share their knowledge and experience with States Members seeking to alter the law on the Channel island.
Amanda Ward, CEO of Friends at the End (FATE), an organisation promoting knowledge and understanding of end of life choices and campaigning for assisted dying, will spend a day with politicians and other groups, explaining the background of recent attempts to alter the law in Scotland and what lessons were learned.
The invitation to Ms. Ward to meet with legislators comes after Guernsey States Member, Gavin St. Pier, proposed a resolution for the island which will ask representatives to grant in principle agreement that Guernsey will introduce some form of legal regime for Assisted Dying. Were this to be passed a working group of doctors, ethicists and others would develop the legal regime which would then be implemented.
Having led the fight on the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill in 2015, which saw support amongst MSPs double for a change in the law, FATE is uniquely placed to explain and help representatives in Guernsey understand the various concerns which come up when politicians consider such contentious legislation.
FATE believes that all of the legitimate concerns people have can be overcome by ensuring sufficient safeguards are in place at a medical and legal level. This would ensure medically assisted dying was available to all mentally competent adults with a terminal illness or incurable condition provided it is only at their own request.
The effects of such a change in the law would reduce the hopeless and unbearable suffering of these individuals when there is no reasonable alternative to relieve it.
Before leaving for Guernsey, Amanda Ward said: “The approach taken by the politicians in Guernsey has been different to what we have seen elsewhere but ensures that the details of the final implementation would be taken by a varied and diverse working group who could overcome the legal, medical and ethical questions which arise from this kind of change.”
“As secretary of the Cross Party Group in the Scottish Parliament on End of Life Choices it is important we reach out with other jurisdictions on these issues to build our own understanding.”
“Although the Assisted Suicide Bill was defeated by the Scottish Parliament during its last term, support doubled from previous efforts. Since the new Parliament was elected in 2016, we have had numerous conversations with new and returning MSPs and detect even more support for action on this issue in Scotland.”
“I look forward to sharing our own experiences to date as well as my knowledge from studying similar laws around the world, and to learning more about the approach Guernsey States Members are considering and if these could be adapted to Scotland in the future.
“Leadership on this important issue of self-determination by a small jurisdiction such as Guernsey reflects positively on them as a compassionate, mature, progressive place. I am very excited to be able to visit and see the island for myself, particularly in the week that the film, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is being premiered!”