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Terminally ill Jerseyman planning Dignitas death urges States Members to change cruel assisted dying law

  • Alain du Chemin, 50, St Helier, has brain cancer and faces the prospect of a prolonged, traumatic death
  • In an open letter to States Members today, Alain calls for urgent reform to Jersey’s outdated, inequitable law, knowing any change will come too late for him
  • Jersey’s Citizen’s Jury on assisted dying will hear video testimony from Alain at its next meeting tomorrow

A terminally ill Jerseyman who is planning to travel to Dignitas for an assisted death has today (Friday 23 April 2021) written an open letter to States Members urging them to change the cruel law that denies him the right to die on his own terms at home. Alain du Chemin, 50, from St Helier, appeals to States Members to remember his plight when they consider the recommendations of the Citizen’s Jury on assisted dying, which is due to hear video testimony from Alain at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday 24 April 2021).

Jersey’s Citizens Jury on assisted dying, a panel of 23 residents, began meeting in March 2021 to consider whether assisted dying should be permitted on the island. The members will hear expert and personal testimony before making recommendations to the States Assembly for consideration later this year. In Alain’s letter to States Members, he writes that he is “immensely proud” that Jersey is grappling with this issue, “even though any change [to the law] will come too late for me.”

Alain, diagnosed with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, in 2019, was given just months to live earlier this year. He writes, “My Plan A has been to live for as long as possible and as well as possible…My Plan B, when all options to prolong my life have been exhausted, is to die as well as possible, on my own terms…The symptoms of late-stage brain cancer are not pleasant: pain, sickness, becoming unable to gain any enjoyment from my life, losing my dignity. I do not want to endure that kind of death, nor do I want my husband and family to be left with memories of me suffering….

“I want to decide when the time is right for me to go to sleep, comfortably, peacefully, in my own bed, with my loved ones around me. What makes anyone think they have the right to force me to die in a particular way; a way I don’t want? I do not want to end my life, but it is ending. I merely want a choice over how it happens.

However, due to the current law on assisted dying in Jersey, Alain has been forced to spend his final months arranging an assisted death in Switzerland:

“Jersey’s ban on assisted dying means that dying on my own terms comes at huge cost to me and the people I love. I will die earlier than I want to, to ensure I am well enough to get there and in case further lockdown restrictions are introduced. I will die far from my home and cannot be buried here on the island as I wish. I will die without all my loved ones around me, in order to protect them from possible prosecution for assisting me. I have had to spend in excess of £25,000, including chartering a private plane as Covid-19 has disrupted normal travel.”

Alain concludes, “My message to States Members is simple: the ban on assisted dying does not work, so change it. When you consider the outcome of the Citizen’s Jury later this year, you have a chance to do the right thing for our community, and to lead the way for the rest of the British Isles and the world on end-of-life choice. I hope you will not waste it.”

Jersey’s Citizens Jury comes amid a slew of developments around the world on assisted dying. Since January, Spain has voted to legalise assisted dying, Tasmania has become the third Australian state to do so and New Mexico has become the 11th American jurisdiction to follow suit. New Zealand will implement an assisted dying law later this year following a landslide referendum, an assisted dying bill is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny in Ireland, and Germany and Austria are each considering legislation after court rulings struck down their respective bans.

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

“Our thoughts are with Alain and his family, and we are indebted to him for speaking out at such a difficult time. We hope States and Jury Members will listen, and recognise what Alain’s experience demonstrates so powerfully: banning assisted dying does not work. Jersey’s current law simply drives the practice overseas or behind closed doors, forcing dying islanders to take matters into their own hands away from the oversight and protection of the authorities and without the support of healthcare professionals.

“There is a more compassionate alternative: giving dying people the choice and control they desperately want, subject to strict safeguards and transparent regulation. Assisted dying legislation is being taken up by an ever-increasing number of states and nations around the world and is proving to be safe and effective by mounting evidence. Jersey can and should follow in their footsteps, and we echo Alain’s plea that States Members grasp this opportunity to make Jersey a world-leader on end of life choice.”

***ENDS***

Alain’s full letter can be read here. Please note Alain will not be available for interview. For more information, photos or interview requests with Dignity in Dying, please call 07725 433 025 or email ellie.ball@dignityindying.org.uk.

Notes to Editor:

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 – something supported by 84% of the public (Populus, 2019).