The Guernsey campaign advocating care and legal protections for vulnerable people, and opposing assisted suicide

Thanks to your support and the hard work of the States Deputies in understanding the issues if the Amended Requête had been passed, the substantive part of the Requête was defeated in the States of Deliberation with 14 votes for and 24 against on 18th May after three days of debate.  The Deputies did vote for proposition 5 of the Requête as amended (amendment 6), asking Health and Social Care to look further into improvements to End of Life care, a vote of 37 for and 1 against.

What’s The Issue?

In 2006, the States removed criminal penalties for suicide in Guernsey law, through the Homicide and Suicide (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law 2006. Section 5 of that same Law also introduced penalties for assisting someone in their own suicide, so as to protect vulnerable people from being pressured through external or internal factors to end their own life.

On May 16th 2018, the States of Deliberation commenced a debate on a Requête Petition and Amendments that if passed, would have seen the States pursue the legalisation of assisted suicide in Guernsey.

To introduce assisted suicide in any form would have ended our legal protections for the terminally ill, sick, elderly, disabled, and others whose autonomy is fundamentally compromised and who would easily be harmed by a society whose medical culture would be corrupted. It would also undermine and harm our efforts at suicide prevention.

It was therefore absolutely crucial for the welfare of patients and others affected by such legislation, that the States rejected the substantive propositions in the Requête Petition asking for the introduction of Assisted Suicide. Following three days of debate, on Friday May 18th, the States voted overwhelmingly against the introduction of Assisted Suicide, 14 votes for it and 24 against. The only proposition that was passed by 37 votes for and 1 against was one to look further into End of Life care in Guernsey.

Why Should We Reject Assisted Suicide?

Contradicts the Right To Life / Suicide Prevention

Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights (which Guernsey, along with the other Crown Dependencies, with the United Kingdom and her Overseas Territories, is signatory) recognises the human right to life, a right which is further recognised by Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Court has found that the positive implications of the right to life included a positive obligation on State authorities “to take preventive operational measures to protect an individual whose life is at risk”, including those who are a suicide risk. Not only are suicide prevention strategies an important part of that obligation, but laws against assisted suicide are, also. The introduction of assisted suicide removes important protections, and undermines the prevention of suicide by society and Government.

Reflected and reinforced by law is the social assumption that, whilst individuals who attempt to take their own lives should not be prosecuted for doing so but given help and compassion, suicide as a rule is nonetheless an objectively negative phenomenon, and not something another person should encourage or assist.

For this reason, Guernsey like other civilised societies maintains emergency responses to attempted suicides, ‘suicide watches’ of those who may seek to harm themselves, and Government suicide prevention strategies.

If we were to abandon the law’s prohibition on assisted suicide, then the result would be to remove the cultural and public safety role of our law, potentially leading to ‘suicide contagion’ as evidence has shown occurs in places like Switzerland and Oregon.

Undermines the Role of the Law

Baroness Butler-Sloss, the former President of the UKs High Court Family Division, once said that, “Laws, like nation states, are more secure when their boundaries rest on natural frontiers”. Guernsey law against assisted suicide asserts fundamental principles of law that serve to protect vulnerable people from lethal coercion.

In doing this, the law against assisted suicide serves several important purposes. In the first place, it has a cultural purpose in affirming the fundamental social principle that society values human life, and that killing a human being (regardless of motivation) is to be regarded as wrong as a normal moral assumption.

The law also plays an important role in safeguarding public safety in giving prudent and special protection to those who are psychologically vulnerable, from external and internal pressures to end their own lives.

Through these means, it is an expression of every Government’s obligation to safeguard the human right to life.

Not a ‘Slippery Slope’, but a ‘Logical Cliff’

The reality of assisted suicide in places like Belgium and The Netherlands is that over time, the logic of assisted suicide has been extended from the terminally ill to many other vulnerable types of people. When you accept the false idea of a ‘right to die’, you cannot rationally restrict it to only one group of people.

When they were introduced, the euthanasia laws in Belgium and The Netherlands were both initially restricted to people who had incurable terminal illnesses. Since then, the application of euthanasia in those countries has been extended to people suffering from depression, fear of blindness, sexual abuse trauma and anorexia, failed gender reassignment, alcoholism, autism, and PTSD, people who would otherwise be given in a more thoroughgoing manner the psychiatric help they need.

This is all despite on-paper ‘safeguards’ that purported originally to limit euthanasia to the terminally-ill.

This incremental extension was illustrated further in March 2012, when the Dutch introduced mobile units to deal with what they call the 80% of people with dementia or mental illness currently being “missed” – again, their words – by the country’s euthanasia laws. Similarly, the 2011 annual report of the five Dutch Regional Euthanasia Review Committees found that 13 psychiatric patients were killed by euthanasia in 2011, up from 2 in 2010. This, despite a notional legal requirement that the patient should be mentally competent.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia are not merely a slippery slope. They are a logical cliff down which abuse of vulnerable people gets incrementally worse.

Corrupts Medical Practice and Culture

Both the British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners share the view that allowing doctors to prescribe patients drugs which bring about their death would be contrary to the ethics of clinical practice, as the principal purpose of medicine is to improve a patient’s quality of life, not intentionally to foreshorten it. Recent surveys of doctors show that the vast majority do not want to be involved in assisting someone’s suicide.

Unsurprisingly, the experience of other countries shows that involvement of doctors in the death of their patients can be seen to corrupt medical culture, leading to more coarsened attitudes towards lives of vulnerable people by doctors, and leading both them and also even nurses to take matters into their own hands.

In Belgium, a June 2010 study of assisted suicide/euthanasia examined 208 euthanasia deaths in the region of Flanders. The study found that 66 (32%) of the euthanasia deaths were done without explicit request or consent, and the life-ending drugs were sometimes administered by nurses (as opposed to physicians) in some of the cases of euthanasia, operating “beyond the legal margins of their profession”.

Opposed by Doctors, Palliative Care Specialists, & Rights Organisations

Across the British Isles, leading medical bodies, palliative care specialists, and civil rights organisations, oppose assisted suicide. These include medical bodies such as the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons, and General Practitioners, the Association of Palliative Medicine, the British Medical Association, and the World Medical Association, as well as organisations that represent and campaign for the welfare of the disabled and elderly, such as the British Geriatric Society, Scope, the UK Disabled People’s Council, and Not Dead Yet UK.

These groups oppose assisted suicide because of the dangers it poses to the doctor/patient relationship and good medical practice (especially in palliative care), and thereby to the most vulnerable members of society.

Based on False View of Serious Conditions

Many people wrongly assume that there are countless members of the community in physical pain. Where palliative care is available, this is simply not true. Analgesic medicine is now effective enough manage all pain, for example through the use of morphine titration.

Not all pain of course is physical, of course. The existential suffering of those who are paraplegic (who therefore cannot move), or suffering mental breakdown, are those frequently pointed to as the ‘hardest cases’. These are cases for euthanasia, however, not merely assisted suicide, and this is evidence that the assisted suicide lobby would not be satisfied with assisting suicide only for the terminally ill.

Even in these cases, however, hough it is very much notable that such conditions need not mean a life of hopeless and hellish experience. In 2012, the BBC interviewed a man with ‘locked-in syndrome’ called Michael Cupiss, who, despite his paralysis and inability to talk, is “amazingly happy”. Similarly, very recently, scientists who were able through new technology to communicate with four people whose illness was so debilitating that they could not even move their eyes, found that in 7 out of 10 occasions the patients reported being ‘happy’.

This is supported by evidence supplied by a study reported in 2011, in which many people with ‘locked-in syndrome’ communicated that they experienced happiness. Researchers questioned 168 members of the French Association for Locked-in Syndrome, and of the 65 people who responded, 47 patients professed happiness, while 18 said they were unhappy. Only 7% (4 people) said they wanted euthanasia, whilst 68% reported never having had suicidal thoughts.

What Has Happened In Countries That Have Introduced Assisted Suicide or Euthanasia?

In countries that have introduced assisted suicide or euthanasia for a long enough time,

there are serious problems that we would never want to see imported into Guernsey.

Belgium

  • A recent study in the British Medical Journal found that only half of euthanasia cases in Flanders had been reported to the Federal Control and Evaluation Commission. There were no repercussions for failing to report euthanasia deaths to the commission, a situation likely aided by the fact that nearly half of the sixteen members on the commission are affiliated with ‘right-to-die’ associations.
  • A June 2010 study of assisted suicide/euthanasia examined 208 euthanasia deaths, again in Flanders. The study found that 66 (32%) of the euthanasia deaths were done without explicit request or consent, and the life-ending drugs were sometimes administered by nurses (as opposed to physicians) in some of the cases of euthanasia, operating “beyond the legal margins of their profession”.
  • Belgium has seen an ongoing issue of high levels of intentional life-ending without consent in Belgium (involuntary euthanasia).
  • More recent research has even shown that organ donors (including 23.5% of all lung donors) had been euthanised, raising concerns that patients may be given an emotional inducement to be killed, believing that they can be better use being euthanised and harvested.
  • The Belgium law came to prominence in recent years with the decision in February 2014 to extend euthanasia to children. This has caused global concern among clinicians and bioethicists.

Switzerland

  • A systematic study of 43 consecutive cases of assisted suicide in Switzerland from 1992 to 1997 found that in 6 cases (14%) the person presenting for assisted suicide had previously been treated in a psychiatric institution. In 11 cases (26%) there was no serious medical condition recorded on file, and in 5 cases (12%) the stated reason for seeking assisted suicide was bereavement. The authors of the study conclude that in the 1990s assisted suicide was ‘performed by lay-people who act without outside control and violate their own rules’.
  • A later study found that between 1990s and 2001-2004 the rate of assisted suicide for non-fatal diseases increased from 22% to 34% and concluded that ‘weariness of life rather than a fatal or hopeless medical condition may be a more common reason for older members of Exit Deutsche Schweiz to commit suicide’.
  • A study in 2014 found that assisted suicide in Switzerland was associated with living alone and divorce and was significantly more frequent among women. In 16% of deaths by assisted suicide no medical condition was listed.
  • Research on trends from 1991 to 2008 showed ‘a tripling of assisted suicide rates in older women, and the doubling of rates in older men’.
  • Research from Switzerland exists on the negative effect on family members of witnessing assisted suicide.

Belgium

  • A recent study in the British Medical Journal found that only half of euthanasia cases in Flanders had been reported to the Federal Control and Evaluation Commission. There were no repercussions for failing to report euthanasia deaths to the commission, a situation likely aided by the fact that nearly half of the sixteen members on the commission are affiliated with ‘right-to-die’ associations.
  • A June 2010 study of assisted suicide/euthanasia examined 208 euthanasia deaths, again in Flanders. The study found that 66 (32%) of the euthanasia deaths were done without explicit request or consent, and the life-ending drugs were sometimes administered by nurses (as opposed to physicians) in some of the cases of euthanasia, operating “beyond the legal margins of their profession”.
  • Belgium has seen an ongoing issue of high levels of intentional life-ending without consent in Belgium (involuntary euthanasia).
  • More recent research has even shown that organ donors (including 23.5% of all lung donors) had been euthanised, raising concerns that patients may be given an emotional inducement to be killed, believing that they can be better use being euthanised and harvested.
  • The Belgium law came to prominence in recent years with the decision in February 2014 to extend euthanasia to children. This has caused global concern among clinicians and bioethicists.

Switzerland

  • A systematic study of 43 consecutive cases of assisted suicide in Switzerland from 1992 to 1997 found that in 6 cases (14%) the person presenting for assisted suicide had previously been treated in a psychiatric institution. In 11 cases (26%) there was no serious medical condition recorded on file, and in 5 cases (12%) the stated reason for seeking assisted suicide was bereavement. The authors of the study conclude that in the 1990s assisted suicide was ‘performed by lay-people who act without outside control and violate their own rules’.
  • A later study found that between 1990s and 2001-2004 the rate of assisted suicide for non-fatal diseases increased from 22% to 34% and concluded that ‘weariness of life rather than a fatal or hopeless medical condition may be a more common reason for older members of Exit Deutsche Schweiz to commit suicide’.
  • A study in 2014 found that assisted suicide in Switzerland was associated with living alone and divorce and was significantly more frequent among women. In 16% of deaths by assisted suicide no medical condition was listed.
  • Research on trends from 1991 to 2008 showed ‘a tripling of assisted suicide rates in older women, and the doubling of rates in older men’.
  • Research from Switzerland exists on the negative effect on family members of witnessing assisted suicide.

The Netherlands

  • The first two Dutch reports on their euthanasia law showed evidence of a number of deaths without explicit patient request (in other words non-voluntary euthanasia). The rates were 0.8% and 0.7%; equivalent to 1,000 and 900 deaths per year.
  • For such reasons the law and practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide in The Netherlands has been criticised twice by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in 2001, and in 2009.
  • While euthanasia is defined as ending life on request (voluntary euthanasia), The Netherlands has extended it without request to newborn infants with disabilities. This is known as the Groningen Protocol.
  • Recent figures show that the rate of increase in euthanasia numbers has not slowed, but instead has accelerated. There were 4,829 deaths by euthanasia or assisted suicide notified in 2013, up 15% on the previous year.
  • As well as the increase in overall numbers that has been a disproportionate increase in euthanasia for non-terminal diseases, thus in comparison with 2012, euthanasia for multiple geriatric syndromes increased 46% (to 251 cases), euthanasia for dementia increased 130% (to 97 cases), and euthanasia for mental disorders increased 200% (to 42 cases). This increase in euthanasia or assisted suicide for non-terminal conditions reflects opinion among professionals, with a significant number (between 24% and 39%) in favour of euthanasia or assisted suicide for individuals who experience mental suffering due to loss of control, chronic depression or early dementia. A third of doctors and 58% of nurses were in favour of euthanasia in the case of severe dementia, given the presence of an advance directive.
  • Professor Theo Boer, who for nine years was a member of one of the five Regional Review Committees that assess the compliance of euthanasia cases with Dutch law, has written about how the Committees have been insufficient to stop a series of developing abuses, such as subtle pressure being put on people who present for euthanasia by relatives.
  • The late Dr. Els Borst, who was formerly the Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister who guided legalisation of legalised euthanasia through the Dutch parliament, stated that legalised euthanasia has led to a severe decline in the quality of care for terminally-ill patients in The Netherlands, and that ‘safeguards’ haven’t been sufficient, in an interview with anthropologist Dr Anne-Marie The for a book on the history of euthanasia.
  • Dr The, who studied euthanasia for over a decade, points out that palliative care is so inadequate in The Netherlands that patients “often ask for euthanasia out of fear” of dying in agony because care and pain relief is so poor. She adds that a crisis has developed and that “to think that we have neatly arranged everything by adopting the euthanasia law is an illusion”.

Oregon

  • The Oregon State Public Health Division destroys the records of the minimal data collection it makes on assisted suicide in that State every year (see House of Lords Select Committee Report on the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, Volume II: Evidence, pg. 262, Question 592). Non-compliance, under-reporting, or any rule violation is not monitored by them, and they admitted in their first year report that “[W]e cannot detect or collect data on issues of noncompliance with any accuracy”, with other reports admitting that “[O]ur numbers are based on a reporting system for terminally-ill patients who legally receive prescriptions for lethal medications, and do not include patients and physicians who may act outside the law”.
  • An editorial in The Oregonian pointed out that the law established “a system that seems rigged to avoid finding” abuses (Living With the Dying Experiment, The Oregonian, 08/03/05.).
  • In 1998, the year in which the ‘Death with Dignity’ Act legalising assisted suicide in Oregon took effect, it reported that 13% of patients applying for medication to commit suicide did so because they were frightened of being a burden on their families. This percentage has increased drastically and the most recent available figures for 2017 show that last year over four times more patients (55%) opted for assisted suicide for fear of being a burden on their families, friends, or caregivers.
  • This number has fluctuated over the last few years and remained above 40%, with 42.2% of those overall giving that reason since 1998. In 2012, it was 57.1%. In Washington State, where the Oregon has also been tried, this figure has been as high as 61%. What this illustrates is that the ‘right to die’ often becomes a duty to die. Can fear of being a burden could be regarded as making a ‘voluntary’ or ‘free’ decision? Is this really ‘autonomy’?
  • In 2008, a study published in the British Medical Journal examined 58 Oregonians who sought information on assisted suicide. Of them, 26% met the criteria for depressive disorder, and 22% for anxiety disorder. Three of the depressed individuals received and ingested the lethal drugs, dying within two months of being interviewed. The study’s authors concluded that Oregon’s law “may not adequately protect all mentally ill patients”.
  • One study has shown that from 2001 to 2007 a majority (61%, 165 out of 271) of the lethal prescriptions were written by a minority (18%, 20 out of 109) of the participating physicians. More striking still, just 3 physicians were responsible for 23% of lethal prescriptions (62 out of 271). What this suggests is that the few doctors who are willing to engage in the majority of assisted suicides, are the least scrupulous minority in their profession.

The Netherlands

  • The first two Dutch reports on their euthanasia law showed evidence of a number of deaths without explicit patient request (in other words non-voluntary euthanasia). The rates were 0.8% and 0.7%; equivalent to 1,000 and 900 deaths per year.
  • For such reasons the law and practice of euthanasia and assisted suicide in The Netherlands has been criticised twice by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in 2001, and in 2009.
  • While euthanasia is defined as ending life on request (voluntary euthanasia), The Netherlands has extended it without request to newborn infants with disabilities. This is known as the Groningen Protocol.
  • Recent figures show that the rate of increase in euthanasia numbers has not slowed, but instead has accelerated. There were 4,829 deaths by euthanasia or assisted suicide notified in 2013, up 15% on the previous year.
  • As well as the increase in overall numbers that has been a disproportionate increase in euthanasia for non-terminal diseases, thus in comparison with 2012, euthanasia for multiple geriatric syndromes increased 46% (to 251 cases), euthanasia for dementia increased 130% (to 97 cases), and euthanasia for mental disorders increased 200% (to 42 cases). This increase in euthanasia or assisted suicide for non-terminal conditions reflects opinion among professionals, with a significant number (between 24% and 39%) in favour of euthanasia or assisted suicide for individuals who experience mental suffering due to loss of control, chronic depression or early dementia. A third of doctors and 58% of nurses were in favour of euthanasia in the case of severe dementia, given the presence of an advance directive.
  • Professor Theo Boer, who for nine years was a member of one of the five Regional Review Committees that assess the compliance of euthanasia cases with Dutch law, has written about how the Committees have been insufficient to stop a series of developing abuses, such as subtle pressure being put on people who present for euthanasia by relatives.
  • The late Dr. Els Borst, who was formerly the Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister who guided legalisation of legalised euthanasia through the Dutch parliament, stated that legalised euthanasia has led to a severe decline in the quality of care for terminally-ill patients in The Netherlands, and that ‘safeguards’ haven’t been sufficient, in an interview with anthropologist Dr Anne-Marie The for a book on the history of euthanasia.
  • Dr The, who studied euthanasia for over a decade, points out that palliative care is so inadequate in The Netherlands that patients “often ask for euthanasia out of fear” of dying in agony because care and pain relief is so poor. She adds that a crisis has developed and that “to think that we have neatly arranged everything by adopting the euthanasia law is an illusion”.

Oregon

  • The Oregon State Public Health Division destroys the records of the minimal data collection it makes on assisted suicide in that State every year (see House of Lords Select Committee Report on the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, Volume II: Evidence, pg. 262, Question 592). Non-compliance, under-reporting, or any rule violation is not monitored by them, and they admitted in their first year report that “[W]e cannot detect or collect data on issues of noncompliance with any accuracy”, with other reports admitting that “[O]ur numbers are based on a reporting system for terminally-ill patients who legally receive prescriptions for lethal medications, and do not include patients and physicians who may act outside the law”.
  • An editorial in The Oregonian pointed out that the law established “a system that seems rigged to avoid finding” abuses (Living With the Dying Experiment, The Oregonian, 08/03/05.).
  • In 1998, the year in which the ‘Death with Dignity’ Act legalising assisted suicide in Oregon took effect, it reported that 13% of patients applying for medication to commit suicide did so because they were frightened of being a burden on their families. This percentage has increased drastically and the most recent available figures for 2017 show that last year over four times more patients (55%) opted for assisted suicide for fear of being a burden on their families, friends, or caregivers.
  • This number has fluctuated over the last few years and remained above 40%, with 42.2% of those overall giving that reason since 1998. In 2012, it was 57.1%. In Washington State, where the Oregon has also been tried, this figure has been as high as 61%. What this illustrates is that the ‘right to die’ often becomes a duty to die. Can fear of being a burden could be regarded as making a ‘voluntary’ or ‘free’ decision? Is this really ‘autonomy’?
  • In 2008, a study published in the British Medical Journal examined 58 Oregonians who sought information on assisted suicide. Of them, 26% met the criteria for depressive disorder, and 22% for anxiety disorder. Three of the depressed individuals received and ingested the lethal drugs, dying within two months of being interviewed. The study’s authors concluded that Oregon’s law “may not adequately protect all mentally ill patients”.
  • One study has shown that from 2001 to 2007 a majority (61%, 165 out of 271) of the lethal prescriptions were written by a minority (18%, 20 out of 109) of the participating physicians. More striking still, just 3 physicians were responsible for 23% of lethal prescriptions (62 out of 271). What this suggests is that the few doctors who are willing to engage in the majority of assisted suicides, are the least scrupulous minority in their profession.

Answers To Pro-Assisted Suicide Arguments

‘Assisted Dying’

Assisted suicide advocates claim that they are not arguing for assisted suicide, but ‘assisted dying’. The logic of this goes that they wish to apply assisted dying only to people who are terminally-ill, who are not ‘suicidal’ in that they do not wish to die, but simply want to be able to control the time and manner of their dying through a “last act of kindness”.

Sadly, this is a distinction without a difference. The truth is that ‘assisted dying’ is a euphemism that has been created to sanitise what is being argued for, and remove its moral and medical implications.

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The ‘Right To Die’

It is argued by some campaigners for assisted suicide that to have laws against assisted suicide is contrary to human rights, as we have a human ‘right to die’.

The reality is that there is no ‘right to die’ in international human rights law. Not a single human rights statute gives a right to take one’s own life, or to be assisted in doing so. There are clear implications to the right to life however, which assisted suicide undermines.

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‘Oregon Works’

The jurisdiction of Oregon is the favourite model pointed to by assisted suicide advocates, claiming that “20 years of evidence proves that the [Oregon] safeguards work. Vulnerable people are not adversely affected by assisted [suicide] laws”.

The fact is that there is very little data to draw upon from Oregon, as no strong oversight is exercised as to how assisted suicide works there. What little we do know, however, gives great cause for concern. A high rate of people opting for assisted suicide in that State do so because they fear being a burden on their families, Oregon suffers higher relative suicide rates, and evidence suggests that their system fails to protect people with mental health issues.

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‘Limited to Terminally Ill’

Taken together, the arguments of the assisted suicide lobby shows why claims that the law would be ‘limited’ to the terminally ill cannot pass muster.

As we have seen, a central argument for the introduction of assisted suicide is the ‘right to die’, sometimes expressed in terms of ‘autonomy’. If ending your life is a ‘right’ however, then it cannot be only a right for certain kinds of people. Rights are universal principles. So, if a terminally ill person has a ‘right to die’, so does someone who is depressed, someone who is disabled, someone who is severely but non-terminally sick, and many others. There is no logical limiting element of the ‘right to die’.

Even if limited in the short term therefore, by introducing the principle and precedent of a ‘right to die’ into law, the States would be sowing the seeds of inevitable further extension. Which is exactly what we have seen in places like Belgium and The Netherlands.

‘Safeguards’

It is claimed that ‘safeguards’ will be put into the law, so as to give continued protections to vulnerable people. When we look at the safeguards that have been proposed in the U.K. however, as well as New Zealand and various States of Australia, we see that these could not but fail to provide the rigour that would be needed to protect vulnerable constituencies of people.

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‘Religion’

Very often, proponents of assisted suicide try to caricature opposition to their proposals as being a matter of ‘religious’ people trying to ‘impose’ their values and beliefs on the rest of society.

The fact of the matter is that this is at best a red herring, and at worst a dishonest slur. Many of the leading campaigners in the British Isles against assisted suicide are not remotely religious, and the case against assisted suicide is not based on religious teaching, but on public safety and human rights.

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What’s The Alternative?

There is no such thing as a perfect world. As we have shown above however, introducing assisted suicide would disadvantage many more people, even lethally so, than the current legal framework. By contrast, the answer to suffering at the end of life is not assisting suicide, but assisting living.

If Guernsey is to be a truly compassionate and progressive society, it needs to ask the same questions that the U.K. is asking about the supply of palliative care on these Islands, and whether palliative care is a specialism integrated sufficiently enough into our medical centres, community-based medicine, and social care system. This must be planned, well coordinated, and available out of normal hours. All of which is especially important for the “oldest old” (aged 85 and over), people living alone, and people who are most deprived in our community.

One of Britain’s leading experts in palliative care medicine, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, has tabled an Access to Palliative Care Bill in the UK House of Lords that would ensure that all health and social care providers receive necessary education and training in palliative care and are thereby enabled to provide a quality service for patients who need it. This would mean that the individual analgesic requirements of patients would become a priority and a duty for all medical professionals. It would also involve training all staff in how to handle the sensitive communications between themselves, dying patients, and their loved ones, so that needed psychological and emotional support is provided at all times.

In addition to this, Lady Finlay’s Bill aims to resolve problems such the access needed by healthcare workers to the essential palliative medication for patients at all times, and to the specialist advice needed to properly care for those with complex conditions.

Rather than consider assisted suicide, the States should consider how they can better support the palliative care being delivered through the medical services in Guernsey, including Les Bourgs Hospice, so that few, if any, individuals ever feel that their care is so lacking that they desire to end their own lives.

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Who We Are

A diverse community alliance of faithnon faith, disabled people, medical / care professionals, the hospice movement and concerned Guernsey people opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia.

We believe there is a better way through Palliative care, embracing the end of life journey, the support of family and the community.

The States of Guernsey responsibility is to protect life, support families and invest in these vital services including disability rights and Les Bourgs hospice.

You can contact us at info@careforlife.gg.