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.

After an e-petition in 2018 signed by 1,861 people (1.74% of Jersey people) called for a change in the law, and further consultation took place, the Minister for Health and Social Services committed to setting up a representative process to consider whether EAS should be permitted in Jersey.

This was the Citizens’ Jury, which consisted of 23 islanders selected to be demographically representative of the population, but without any requirement that they have relevant expertise. Worse: the participants had a deliberate bias in favour of EAS.

Page 10 of the Jury’s Final Report shows that it was deliberately selected on the basis of its participants’ views, with just over half (12) already believing that EAS should “definitely” be introduced, and a further almost-third (7) believing it “probably” should. An overall majority (19 out of 23) of the Citizens’ Jury had a bias in favour of EAS before even taking part, leaving just 4 people who were against it (2 “definitely”, and 2 “probably”).

This led to a biased Jury which unsurprisingly led to only one person changing their mind on their subject in favour of EAS, and so a predetermined outcome in favour of introducing those practices into Jersey law and medicine. Unsurprisingly, the Citizens’ Jury’s Final Report recommended the most extreme proposals for EAS ever proposed in the British Isles in the 21st century, which has been entirely adopted by the Proposition before the States Assembly.

If you select a Jury so that most have definite views and so that the great majority are in favour of one view then you will not have a Jury that can weigh the evidence fairly and dispassionately. Whilst the evidence before the Jury and those speaking to it was fair to both sides of the argument, this represented an attempt at balance everywhere except where it mattered.

Everyone’s views are important, and these need to be listened to and addressed. It is spurious however, to stack a Jury in favour of one point of view and then count the votes and give significance to those numbers – especially when the numbers simply reflect the bias of the selection process.

The Citizens’ Jury was inexpert, biased, and therefore did not give a balanced or proper report of the issue to the Government. Its findings are thus, unsurprisingly, flawed.