Bishop of Portsmouth “shocked and saddened” by Jersey vote in favour of assisted suicide

The Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth has said he is “shocked and saddened” at the vote of the Jersey States Assembly in favour of assisted suicide.

In reaction to the ‘in principle’ decision by States Ministers in Jersey on the 25th November regarding the proposition on assisted suicide, Bishop Philip Egan said: “I was shocked and saddened by the results of yesterday’s vote on euthanasia and assisted suicide in Jersey. It demonstrates a woeful lack of interest in protecting the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Members of the States Assembly backed the principle of ‘assisted dying’ by 36 votes to 10.

This opens the door to another debate and vote on more specific processes and ‘safeguards’ in 2022. If politicians still support assisted suicide at this stage, legislation will be brought forward and vote on in 2023.

In March 2021, Jersey formed a citizens’ jury, made up of 23 randomly selected applicants, to determine whether assisted suicide should be allowed on the island. If the island changes its laws, Jersey will be the first place on the British Isles to allow assisted suicide, though proposals to legalise the practice are also being considered in both Scotland and England.

Assisted suicide has been met with strong opposition on the island, including by doctors.

This week, 65 medics – more than 10 per cent of doctors on the island – warned Jersey’s Health Minister not to change the law.

A letter to Minister Richard Renouf expressed concerns that “the most vulnerable members of our society” could feel “coerced into a decision they would not make if the law did not permit it”.

“It is very hard for clinicians to diagnose unbearable suffering or to predict time to death accurately for many conditions”, it added.

“The Catholic Church is clear that we can never assist in taking the life of another, even if they request it,” said Bishop Egan.

“Killing people and committing suicide is against God’s law. All human life is a gift to be safeguarded from conception until natural death, and we reiterate our call for continuing investment in high quality palliative care, in order to preserve the dignity of some of our most vulnerable, at such difficult moments in their lives.”

Pic: © Marcin Mazur