The Jersey community advocating developed palliative care
and strengthened legal protections for vulnerable people,
and opposing euthanasia and assisted suicide.

What’s The Issue?

When sitting on the 23rd November, the States Assembly will debate a Proposition to introduce euthanasia and/or assisted suicide into Jersey law and medical practice.

  • Euthanasia is the killing of a patient by a doctor, usually through the administration of an overdose (fatal poisoning) of drugs such as barbiturates.
  • Assisted suicide is the provision by a doctor of a lethal overdose of drugs to their patient who will use them to end his or her own life.

The Proposition, if passed by the States Assembly, would introduce both these practices into Jersey law and medical practice by providing exemptions from prosecution for the crimes of murder, attempted murder, and ‘aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring murder’, for doctors who euthanise their patients, or provide them with lethal drugs to commit suicide, under certain grounds.

To do this would end important legal protections for the terminally ill, sick, elderly, disabled, and others whose autonomy is fundamentally compromised by their physical or mental condition, and who would easily be harmed by a society whose medical culture would be corrupted. It would undermine and harm our country’s efforts at suicide prevention and development of palliative care.

It is therefore absolutely crucial for the welfare of patients and others affected by such legislation that the States Assembly rejects every element of the Proposition. Instead, the adoption of progressive reforms that will help remove legal stigma against those who suffer from suicidal ideation, and improve access to specialist palliative care, are available to them.

The rejection of medicalised killing and the improvement of real care in our legal and medical systems, will only happen if ordinary members of the public like you contact your Senators, Connétables, and Deputies.

You can do so using this e-mail facility

What is the Purpose of Laws Which Prevent Causing the Death of Patients?

Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights (to which Jersey, 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.

Jersey legal conventions against euthanasia and assisted suicide establish fundamental principles of law which serve three important purposes in protecting the right to life:

  • A cultural purpose in affirming the value of human life and the normal wrongness of killing;
  • A legal purpose in protecting vulnerable people from lethal coercion;
  • A social purpose in safeguarding mental health by suicide prevention.

Affirming the Value of the Lives of Human Beings

The 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, is an important element of our law, especially as it informs our medical practice.

As the former President of the UK’s High Court Family Division, Baroness Butler-Sloss, once said,

Laws, like nation states, are more secure when their boundaries rest on natural frontiers. The law that we have rests on just such a frontier. It rests on the principle that we do not involve ourselves in deliberately bringing about the deaths of others”.

The natural frontier of medical law is that medical professionals should not be involved in killing, or enabling the killing, of their patients.

Protection of Vulnerable People from Coercion

The primary purpose of law is to protect people from lethal coercion. Our current law against euthanasia and assisting the suicide of others, helps safeguard public safety in giving prudent and special protection to those who are psychologically vulnerable, from external and internal pressures to end their own lives.

When someone is very elderly, suffers from a serious illness, or possesses any condition or impairment which becomes a disability due to society’s lack of inclusion, they become vulnerable to coercion and serious abuse due their weakened or lessened personal autonomy. In these cases, the law against euthanasia and assisted suicide exists to prevent the means by which that abuse might take place, and protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

Suicide Prevention

According to the European Court of Human Rights, the implications of the right to life include a positive obligation on State authorities “to take preventive operational measures to protect an individual whose life is at risk”, including those who are at risk of suicide. Not only are suicide prevention strategies an important part of that obligation, but so are laws against assisting someone in causing their own death.

The law should reflect and reinforce 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, Jersey 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. We still need to destigmatise our law on suicide and strengthen protections for those who experience suicidal ideation.

Why Should We Reject Euthanasia
and Assisted Suicide (EAS)?

The introduction of euthanasia and/or assisted suicide (EAS) contradicts the valuing of human lives and the moral proscription of killing in medicine and more widely, removes important protections for vulnerable patients, and undermines the prevention of suicide by society and Government.

Public Safety

A key reason for EAS to remain a legal offence is to protect vulnerable members of the public who are vulnerable to coercion and abuse. Sadly, in practice as well as in theory, so-called ‘safeguards’ for EAS have been shown to fail in providing the same protection.

Not only has the introduction of EAS led to premature deaths due to pressure from unscrupulous friends and relatives, it has also led to increasing and then consistently high proportions of patients who present for EAS on the basis of feeling a burden on family, friends, and caregivers.

Particularly with ongoing problems of elder abuse, and disability discrimination, EAS is danger to public safety.

Suicide Prevention

In the context of terminal and chronic illness, a wish to die is often temporary and transient due to depression caused by illness. In the general population, suicidal thoughts and urges are common symptoms of depression, and serious suicidal thoughts rarely arise apart from depression.

Correspondingly, and worryingly, in those jurisdictions where euthanasia and assisted suicide have been introduced into law and medical practice, significant proportions of those who have been euthanised or who have been enabled to commit suicide,  have suffered from depression and suffered from other forms of mental ill health.

Further, data from each jurisdiction which has introduced euthanasia and assisted suicide shows that numbers of those being euthanised or committing suicide with assistance from their physician rises profoundly over time.

If we were to remove legal protections for vulnerable patients from euthanasia and assisted suicide therefore, then the result would be to remove the cultural and public safety role of our law, potentially leading to ‘suicide contagion’ for which there is emerging evidence.

Patient Dignity

A key argument in favour of legalising assisted suicide is that it is necessary to secure ‘dignity in dying’, by providing painfree and peaceful deaths. The causing of death by ingestion of drugs is an unnatural act however, and as might be expected can lead to the opposite of what is intended: undignified and painful deaths.

The latest annual statistical report from Oregon reports that between 1997-2020, 68.8% of lethal drugs used in Oregon assisted suicide have been barbiturates such as secobarbital, phenobarbital, and pentobarbital. This is the same means by which criminals on death row in the U.S. are killed in ‘lethal injection’ executions, and works by inducing unconsciousness, followed by respiratory arrest and consequent asphyxiation. This has been called ‘cruel and unusual’ due to testimony thatthe majority of those injected with pentobarbital suffer flash pulmonary edema, which can lead to a sensation akin to drowning and “extreme pain, terror, and panic”’.

EAS isn’t
a ‘Slippery Slope’,
it’s a ‘Logical Cliff’!

When you accept the false idea of a ‘right to die’, you cannot rationally restrict it to only one group of people. Rights apply to everyone, or they apply to no-one, and so the logic of ‘autonomy’ extends from the terminally ill to many vulnerable types of people.

The Proposition before the States Assembly heads straight down the logical cliff to euthanasia and assisted suicide not just for the terminally ill, but for those who possess “an incurable physical condition, resulting in unbearable suffering that cannot be alleviated”. Here, the phrase “unbearable suffering” is undefined, and so is completely subjective. As what is considered unbearable will differ from person to person, as long as the suffering can be said to be caused by an incurable physical condition, it would be grounds for EAS.

Logical Cliff

Corrupts Medical
Practice and Culture

Trust is the foundation of the clinician-patient relationship. The fact that a doctor might instigate death changes the relationship when a patient is ill and seeking care. There must be clarity that a doctor will never intentionally cause harm to a patient. Continued pressure on NHS resources, however, could lead to decisions being taken that would undermine that trust, as medical decisions would be made not in the best interests of the patient, but according to the priorities of the health system.

Evidence shows however that where EAS has been introduced, patients have been euthanised as part of being exploited for organ retrieval, and the ending of patients’ lives treated as an economic and medical benefit. Medical professionals meanwhile have either suffered moral hazard and repercussions on their mental health, or else been part of the least scrupulous section of their profession in involving themselves in EAS practices which are involuntary or least autonomous.

What Has Happened In Jurisdictions That Have Introduced Euthanasia?


  • 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.


  • 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”.

What Has Happened In Jurisdictions That Have Introduced Assisted Suicide?

Oregon / Washington

  • 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, 08th March 2005). The system has not been reformed in the intervening 16 years.


  • 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 2020 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.


  • 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.

Problems with the Proposed Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Law

Eligibility Criteria

The criteria in the Proposition before the States Assembly by which a patient’s condition would be eligible for euthanasia or assisted suicide are problematic. They are so wide as to cover a range of common incurable chronic illnesses and physical impairments, which can be kept at bay for years by effective treatments and involve long and happy lives for those suffering from it. This has direct disability rights implications despite the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) not being extended to Jersey.

The more limited criteria for assisted suicide and terminal illness also suffer from serious problems, such as the six month prognosis criterion, given the unreliability of prognoses of patient death that far in advance.


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 alleged protections that have been proposed however, we see that these are vague, and that those which have been proposed and practised in other jurisdictions could not but fail to provide the rigour that would be needed to protect vulnerable constituencies of people.

Answers to Pro-EAS Arguments


Freedom over our own lives or bodies is necessarily limited for our own good and often subordinated for serious reasons for the good of others.

Public safety, the Common Good, and justice, all show that autonomy cannot be an absolute principle, or justify euthanasia or assisted suicide if understand properly.

‘Dignity in Dying’

All patients should be treated with respect, courtesy and compassion simply because they are of immense value and worth as human beings.

Serious illness does not rob someone of their inherent human dignity.  Dignity is intrinsic to who we are as human beings and cannot be lost. 

Accordingly, it is the very presence of that inherent human dignity, that intrinsic value and worth of human beings, that restrains us from taking human life.

‘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.

‘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.

Public Support and the ‘Citizens’ Jury’

One supposedly powerful argument in favour of the introduction of euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS) on Jersey is the final report of the Citizens’ Panel on Assisted Dying, 78.3% of whom agreed that EAS should be permitted where a Jersey resident, aged 18 and over, has a terminal illness or is experiencing “unbearable suffering” and wishes to end their life.

The reality however is that the Citizens’ Jury was biased in favour of EAS from its inception, and in no way formed a balanced or fair consideration of the evidence for or against such proposals.


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.

This is red herring. Some 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

Progressive Alternatives to Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

There is no such thing as a perfect world. The evidence from other jurisdictions shows however, that both euthanasia for those suffering what they consider “unbearable suffering” (as practised in Canada, Belgium, and the Netherlands) or assisted suicide only for the terminally ill (as in American States like Oregon, Washington, or California).

There are alternatives to these dangerous practices that would both allow true dignity for those who are dying or suffering from chronic or terminal illness, and also destigmatisation and better protections for those whose autonomy is compromised by dire mental health.

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