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Jersey becomes first British parliament to approve assisted dying

States Assembly votes by landslide to support proposal for future assisted dying legislation, after citizens’ jury strongly recommended law change

Jersey’s States Assembly, the island’s parliament, has today (Thursday 25 November 2021) voted by 36 to 10 to support a proposition on assisted dying, paving the way for the first British jurisdiction to permit this choice.

The States Assembly was asked to agree in principle that assisted dying should be allowed on the island in limited circumstances, after a citizens’ jury was tasked with examining the arguments for and against legalisation earlier this year. The jury strongly recommended that the law should be changed to allow this choice for citizens who are mentally competent and either terminally ill or unbearably suffering. As a British Crown Dependency, Jersey is able to legislate on this matter independently from Westminster.

Today the States Assembly voted to support the proposition by 36 to 10. Jersey’s Council of Ministers will now be tasked with drafting assisted dying legislation to be debated by the States Assembly by the end of next year.

The vote comes amid overwhelming public support, with nine in 10 (90%) islanders agreeing the law should change to allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults the choice of an assisted death (including more than seven in 10 [73%] who strongly support law change). Fewer than one in 10 (3%) believe that Jersey should wait for the UK to act first.

St Helier resident Paul Gazzard, whose husband Alain du Chemin died of glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, in May, has welcomed today’s result. Alain had arranged an assisted death in Switzerland but his condition deteriorated before he could make the journey. Before his death, Alain contributed personal testimony to the citizens’ jury and wrote to States Members urging them to support a change in the law on assisted dying.

Paul said:

“I am delighted that States Members have chosen today to stand with terminally ill people and their loved ones and reject the ban on assisted dying. I was touched that several speeches referred to Alain; he would have been honoured to have played a part in this historic moment.

“The current law in Jersey meant that Alain was denied the right to die on his own terms at home, forcing us to try to arrange an assisted death abroad in the middle of a pandemic. This sapped time and energy when both were in short supply, taking a toll at an already difficult time. To have had the option of assisted dying in Jersey alongside end of life care would have saved us both so much stress and anxiety in his final months.

“It is heartening to know that other terminally ill people may be given this choice in future and won’t have to suffer as Alain did, and that his tireless campaigning was not in vain.”

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, which campaigns across the British Isles for a change in the law to allow assisted dying as a choice for terminally ill, mentally competent adults, said:

“Today is a victory for common-sense and compassion. The States Assembly has listened to the public and the clear mandate given to them by the citizens’ jury to fix this broken law. This historic vote paves the way for the first assisted dying legislation for British citizens, moving at long last away from a cruel and outdated status quo that denies dying people choice and forces them to suffer against their wishes.

“Momentum for change is building right across UK and Ireland, and Jersey is now leading the charge. An Assisted Dying Bill is also progressing through the House of Lords, a public consultation is underway in Scotland, and a Special Committee on this issue will launch in Ireland in the New Year. Meanwhile more than 200 million people around the world have access to assisted dying laws.

“We commend Jersey’s States Assembly for their open-mindedness. History will remember those who did the right thing and stood up for dying citizens, as well as those who did not.”


For more information or interview requests, please contact Ellie Ball, Media & Campaigns Manager, at or call 07725 433 025.

Notes to Editor

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Island Global Research Ltd. Total sample size was 2,801 adults (873 in Jersey, 1056 in Guernsey and 872 in the Isle of Man). Fieldwork was undertaken between 10th – 18th May 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults (aged 16+) living in the Crown Dependencies (i.e. Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man).

Dignity in Dying

Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It campaigns within the law to change the law, to allow assisted dying as an option for terminally ill, mentally competent adults with six months or less to live.

Assisted dying is prohibited in England and Wales under the Suicide Act (1961), and in Northern Ireland under the Criminal Justice Act (1966) which states that anyone who “encourages or assists a suicide” is liable to up to 14 years in prison. There is no specific crime of assisting a suicide in Scotland, but it is possible that helping a person to die could lead to prosecution for culpable homicide.

In Jersey there is no specific legislation that governs suicide or assisting a suicide, however attempted murder and aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring murder are offences under Jersey law and it is conceivable that assisting another person to take their own life could be charged under one of these offences.

States of Jersey assisted dying debate

The States Assembly today (Thursday 25 November 2021) voted in favour of a proposition to support a change in the law on assisted dying by 36 to 10. The Council of Ministers will now be tasked with preparing and issuing law drafting instructions before the 2022 general election, with legislation to be available for debate by the States Assembly by the end of next year.

The debate follows a citizens’ jury on the subject, comprised of a random representative sample of islanders, which strongly recommended a change in the law to enable islanders who are terminally ill and unbearably suffering to be able to request medical assistance to end their own life following months of deliberation earlier this year. As British Crown Dependencies, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man are each able to legislate on assisted dying independently from the rest of the British Isles.

House of Lords Private Member’s Assisted Dying Bill

Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill today passed unopposed to Committee Stage, following a Second Reading debate in the House of Lords (Friday 22 October 2021).

The Bill was selected seventh in the House of Lords private members ballot in May and received its First Reading on Wednesday 26th May 2021. The full text can be found here: It is based on a bill introduced by Lord Falconer in 2014. Rob Marris MP introduced a similar bill in 2015 which was defeated in the Commons.

The functioning of the current law on assisted dying was the subject of a Backbench Business Committee Debate in July 2019 and a Westminster Hall debate in January 2020, at which a majority of MPs speaking called for a review of present legislation.

Assisted Dying Scotland Bill proposal

Liam McArthur, Lib Dem MSP for Orkney, lodged the ‘Assisted Dying Scotland’ Members Bill proposal with the Non-Government Bill Unit (NGBU) of the Scottish Parliament in June 2021. A Consultation on the contents of the bill launched in September 2021 and is open until 22 December 2021. The proposal seeks to introduce the right to choose an assisted death for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in Scotland.

Falkland Islands motions on assisted dying

In 2018 the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands voted to support a motion that terminally ill residents should have the right to die at a time and place of their choosing, subject to robust legislation and safeguards. A second motion stated that should assisted dying legislation be introduced in the UK, the Falkland Islands would consider adopting it. Both motions passed by four votes to three with one abstention.

Special Oireachtas Committee on assisted dying in Ireland

In November 2021 the Dáil announced that a Special Committee on assisted dying would be established in the New Year to examine the topic, which will run for 9 months.

Healthcare professionals

The British Medical Association (BMA) dropped its official opposition to a change in the law on assisted dying in favour of neutrality, following a debate at its Annual Representative Meeting in September 2021. The largest ever poll of British doctors on assisted dying, conducted by the BMA last year, found overwhelming support for a change to the BMA’s former stance of opposition to an assisted dying law (61%), and that half of doctors personally support a change in the law (50%).

In March 2019, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) dropped its longstanding opposition to assisted dying in favour of neutrality following a member survey.

The Royal Society of Medicine, Royal College of Nursing (and Royal College of Nursing Scotland), the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society all also hold neutral positions on assisted dying.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Association of British Neurologists, General Medical Council, General Pharmaceutical Council, Royal College of Anaesthetists, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of Pathologists, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Royal College of Radiologists and Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh have no stated position on a change in the law on assisted dying.

In September 2020, Eminent GPs Prof Aneez Esmail and Sir Sam Everington launched a legal challenge to the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) alongside the Good Law Project and Dignity in Dying over RCGP Council’s decision to maintain opposition to assisted dying despite its own survey showing a dramatic shift in GP opinion. The Association for Palliative Medicine and the Royal College of Surgeons of England also hold a stance of opposition to a change in the law on assisted dying.

International developments

In the US, assisted dying as an option for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in their final months of life is legal in 11 jurisdictions: Oregon (1997), Washington, Vermont, Montana, the District of Columbia, California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine and New Mexico (legislation approved April 2021).

In Australia, assisted dying is a legal choice for terminally ill citizens in Victoria (June 2019), Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia and Queensland (legislation approved September 2021). A bill has also been tabled in New South Wales.

In November 2021 New Zealand implemented an assisted dying law which legalised this option for terminally ill, mentally competent citizens, following a public referendum on the End of Life Choice Act in October 2020.

Spain passed a law allowing assisted dying in March 2021.

Austria’s Supreme Court ruled in December 2020 that its blanket ban on assisted dying is unconstitutional and the practice will be decriminalised in limited circumstances by 2022.

Germany began considering potential assisted dying legalisation in January 2021 after its Constitutional Court struck down the ban in 2020.

Canada introduced assisted dying legislation in 2016 permitting those suffering from a grievous and irremediable medical condition.

In Colombia legislation was passed in 2015 which permits those with terminal illness or unbearable suffering to request access to life-ending medication.

Assisted dying is permitted in Switzerland, including for foreign nationals, and broader right-to-die laws are in place in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.